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in 2010 

Issue 20 Processed World, 41 Sutter St. #1829, San Francisco, CA 94104 Fall 1 98 7 

TALKING HEADS introduction 2 

LEXXERS from our readers 

XHE HEALXH EPIDEMIC article by Lucius Cabins & Louis Mkhaehon 10 

POEXRY Comford, Downie, Emmott, Talcott 1^ 

WORK SICKNESS AX XHE HEALXH FACXORY tale oj toU by Summer Brenner 20 

MEDICAL MERRY-GO-ROUND patient tale by Bob McGlynn -•24 

SOFXCORE fiction by Michael Blumlein 26 

BLOOD, SWEAX& SOAP taU of toil by jay Clemens 28 

POEXRY Daniels, Jensen, Tarlen ^^ 

AN UNINSURED XAIL patient tale by Willie the Rat 32 

MORAL DAXA INC. fiction by Steve Billias 35 

WOULD YOU, HAVE YOU, DID YOU Ue detector toil by Mark Leger ■ ^7 

SXRESS: A SOCIAL DIS-EASE leaflet repnnl by Nasty Secretaries Liberation Front 40 

^/C -^ DERAILMENX FROM XHE FASX XRACK tale of toil by Madame Cune 42 

DEBXH fiction by Jim Poyser 44 

XHE MAN WHO LOVED LEVIXXOWN book review by Ana Logue 47 

Front Cover by.JR Swanson 

Back Cover by: Dave Bread 

PROCESSED WORLD is a project of the Bay Area Center for Art & Technology, a 
California non-profit corporation. BACATs mailing address is 37 Clementina St., San 
Francisco, CA 94105. Phone:(415)495-6823. 

PROCESSED WORLD is indexed in the Alternative Press Index. All articles and 
stories reflect the views and fantasies of the author, and not necessarily those of other 
contributors or the Bay Area Center for Art & Technology. 

CONTRIBUTORS: Zoe Noc, Louis Michaelson, Primitive 
Morales, Frog, Dennis Hayes, Emily Post-It, Sarkis 
N^anouchJan, Chaz Bufe, Ana Logue, Sofia Furia, Lucius 
Cabins, Tobie Auter, JRS, Dave Bread, Pauline Paella, 
Mari Calamari, Florence Burns, RL Tripp, Med-O, Jay 
Clemens, Mars , and many others. . . 






' \ 


Processed World is losing two of 
our most important editors, co- 
founders both — Lucius Cabins 
and Maxine Holz. They are 
leaving to strike new creative 
'^ ground for themselves. The rest 
' of us uneasily wonder how we're 
going to fill the gap. Maxine pushed to 
keep the magazine intellectually vital. 
Her attendaince at meetings always 
charged up the discussion. Her articles 
— on pornography and sex workers, 
workplace actions, child care — have 
been on the cutting edge of the issues 
that Processed World is all about. Lucius 
has been our unpaid staffperson all these 
years— dealing with the mail, typeset- 

ting 30 to 100 percent of every issue, 
taking care of thousands of administra- 
tive details as well as contributing 
toughly analytical articles, offering co- 
gent opinions at editorial meetings, 
shaping the graphics of the magazine... 
Their departure raises structural prob- 
lems for us, since a lot of tasks they took 
care of will have to be shared. 

Processed World Goes Travelling 

Lured by a friend who edits a local left 
journal, and harboring visions of new 
subscriptions and positive interactions 
with devoted readers, I arranged to have 
a table at a recent leftist "scholars" 

conference in New York. It turned out 
to be a weekend of playing shop to an 
aisle of brain-dead academics. I man- 
aged to sneak away to a couple of the 
"cultural" workshops. It wais interesting 
to see the same people who advocated 
listening to "marginal" voices, fusing art 
with political practice, stressing the 
subjective, the polyvalent, etc., com- 
pletely not 'get' Processed World. I would 
have worried, except for the several 
people from "lower stations" who under- 
stood us on sight. You know you're 
doing something right when you go out 
into the street and the people there have 
a fuller understanding of what you're 
trying to do than the Official Interpret- 
ers. However, I did enjoy meeting some 
of the New Yorkers who contribute to 



e^v^ Y orK i^iiy amu^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Hiisi- 3 1 * there 
would be a 90-day^HipCrimeatal period" whe^^^^^^^^^^^^^B^ed from 
central midtown Manhattan 10 am-4 pm daily. Organizing against the "ban" originated 
in daily messenger and other bUte-rider gatherings at a messenger after-work hang- 
out park. From there, 30 to 400 bikers have been taking a slow "work to rule" ride 
(i.e. carefully obeying regulations to fuck things up— stopping at every red light etc.) 
up Manhattan's 6th Avenue and then down 5th Avenue. One large march is planned 
for August 1 2. If the City gov't, doesn't respond we plan a strike on August 19 to be 
accompanied by direct action in the street during work hours. For an update call the 
Independent Couriers Association at (7 1 8) 499-7720. —Bob McGlynn 


the magazine and would have Hked to 
pursue more substantial contact. I wish 
I had been less beaten by the ennui of 
the conference. 

Dissection Lab 

Let's take a rusty scalpel and cut into 
our Medical issue to see what's there. 
Lucius Cabins and Louis Michaelson 
lead off with The Health Epidemic, an 
examination of the non-sensical boom of 
the medical industry juxtaposed to a 
national preoccupation with health. 

This issue squirms with numerous 
Tales of Toil. Nausea swells in Jay 
Clemens' Blood, Sweat and Soap, a 
look at the squishy insides of a hospital 
laundry room. Moving down the 
digestive tract, we locate another cause 
of ill health in Work Sickness at the 
Health Factory by Summer Brenner. 
Brenner straightforwardly describes the 
occupational stress that leads to one 
disease after another, ironiccdly in the 
employ of one of the country's largest 
health care providers. This issue is 
further denounced in Stress: A Social 
Disease, a reprint of a 1983 Nasty 
Secretaries Liberation Front leaflet — a 
short, informative wave of anger. Bob 
McGlynn does a time and motion study 
of patient as worker in Medical Merry- 
Go-Round in the centerfold. The plight 
of the "mediccilly indigent" is exammed 
in An Uninsured Tail by Willie the 
Rat, who also suggests worthwhile pre- 
cautions to take if you're not paying 
your $70 a month to Blue Cross. Would 
You, Have You, Did You is about the 
use of medical monitoring equipment 
— lie detector machines — to authoritar- 
ian ends. Emerging at the other end, 
Derailed from the Fast Track recounts 
one woman's circuit from free spirit to 
tech writer to free spirit. 

Wrangles over fiction have been 
causing a lot of lesions and fractures in 
PW. Ana Logue's review of W. D. 
Wetherell's The Man Who Loved Leviltown 
provoked the most disagreement since 
the short story Wenda in issue 18. Some 
members of the collective felt that Ana 
was undeservedly harsh on our contri- 
butors. But Ana deplores what she 
considers the limited vision of much of 
our fiction submissions. She uses the 


review to call for stories that "capture 
the horror and the humanity of the 
people behind the beige curtain." 

All in all, though, this issue shows 
enhanced vital signs. All three fiction 
selections are diagnosed as Active disto- 
pias — but benign. Debth is a grimly 
funny vision of a future where one class 
of people sells body parts to earn pin 
money and another class buys them for 
status symbols. Softcore is an unsettling 
account of a doctor's encounter with a 
mysterious new disease. Moral Data, 
Inc. tells of a time when even art is 
evaluated in terms of computerized 
quantification rather than human re- 
sponse. So, patient, aitcr your choice of 
one last enema, blood test, or spinal tap, 
you shall be released. 

-Mark Leger 

Processed Worid's Topic 
Wish List: 

We thought wed publish this list in the hope 
that some of you readers would like to submit 
articles for future issues. This list reflects what 
may become the basis for future theme issues. 
NEXT ISSUE: Militarism/National 

• Nurse and Doctor Tales of Toil, reac- 
tions to this issue, analyses of medical/ 
technology issues we neglected here, etc. 

• Mental Health Industry 

• Urbanism/City Planning, transporta- 
tion, "urban village" new exurban habi- 
tat, etc. 

• Ecology, esp. Green radicalism, de- 
forestation, etc. 

• Travel and Leisure (including for ex- 
ample, service workers' Tales of Toil, 
working in the tourist industry, alienated 
leisure time, tourism and cultural "im- 
perialism" etc.) 

• And of course, we're interested in many 
other topics, too. Feel free to suggest 

SUBSCRIBERS! If your label says 20 
after your name, your subscription 
lapses with this issue — PLEASE 
RENEW NOW! If your label has a 
number less than 20, this issue is your 
last free copy — renew if you want to 
keep getting PW! Thanks! 


41 Sutter St. #1829 

San Francisco, CA 94104, USA 









Dear PW: 

What a nice surprise to find #19 in my 
mailbox when I got home from work yes- 
terday. I put in a lot of overtime (unwil- 
lingly, as somehow even the extra money 
doesn't make up for the lost time) but 
otherwise I'm still glad to be back in the 
real world. Philadelphia and the rest of 
the east seem more and more California, 
at least to me. There are sushi bars, flower 
boutiques, surfer sets, all without that 
particular California attitude though. I'm 
not sure whether there are fewer home- 
less people here than in San Francisco. I 
do know there are a lot of people sleep- 
ing, eating and living on the vents, even 
in summertime. I live in the middle of a 
downtown area, glacially gentrifying, 
with the usual downtovra mix of transves- 
tite hookers, ancient whites, students, 
strivers and the boom box generation. 
People do seem to care. Several women 
at work cook nutritious meals for the 
homeless, the whole thing coordinated 
by local churches. It ain't nothin' like 
New York, though. Have you ever been 
to the Port Authority Terminal? Everything 
is happening there, and it's happening 
all at once, all the time, to all the people. 

It was good to hear that you'd gone to 
Vancouver [foi the SpUt Shift Conlerence], 
that you've developed the nonprofit 
thing, and that you're planning more is- 
sues. I suppose you get the usual number 
of groans that PWis getting too slick. The 
fiction is definitely improving, and impro- 
ving in an era of the nearly-dead short 

Being back is still a treat, work the worst 
part of being here. But that would be the 
same anywhere. I used to miss the sum- 
mer thunderstorms and the smell of the 
rain-washed streets, the east coast sensi- 
bihty ("yo," as a greeting and goodby) and 
the hustle generally. You can buy every- 
thing at discount here, so everything 
seems cheaper than in California. The 
streets are filthy and littered, lots of aban- 
doned buildings. On the train going 
through North Philadelphia (the original 
ghetto, reputed to be one of the worst), 
the landscape looks ruined and depopu- 









lated. Nearly all the heavy industry has 
left including the giant steel works. You 
can imagine what the sight of this does to 
my interior landscape. Maybe, as Bellow 
says, that life was never meant to last, 
although I don't know what he means by 
that. I'd rather that the affluence wasn't 
meant to last. Double-parking in Harlem 
is institutionalized now, and there are no 
lanes on the approach to the Lincoln Tun- 
nel. Everyone just piles up and attempts 
to merge. In some places there's triple 

Best regards, B.C. — Philadelphia 


Dear friends. 

Some of my poetry deals with my life as 
a member of the house staff — medical 
student, intern, resident — and some as a 
G.P. This is like graduating from slave to 
massa, and becoming a resident is like re- 
turning to slavery, and now as a G.P. again 
I'm back in the big house. It's very weird. 
The system of running hospitals with slaves 
by holding out the carrot of the big house 
later on is a system for keeping you a kid 
till you're thirty -five. I got fired from my 
residency after three years of killing toil 
(for addressing the staffmen with insuf- 
ficient servility) and now as a G.P. they 
have to be civil to me or I don't send them 
any patients. And I have lots of referrals 
to make. The one fellow who was sweet to 
me when we were residents together (he's 
a specialist now) gets thousands of dollars 
a year in work as a reward. The rest get 
my abortion patients. Tee hee. 

When I was a medical student I worked 
40 hours a week plus up to 50 hours on 
call for nothing. I paid fees to the university. 
When I was an intern I worked 50 hours a 
week plus up to 50 hours on call for $ 1 20 
a week. When I was a resident I worked 
similar hours for about $250 a week. This 
was in 1981. Now as a G.P. I work about 
30 hours a week in the office and 1 2 to 50 
hours of very light call plus maybe 10 
hours in the hospital at night doing births, 
and I gross $60,000 a year and take home 
$27,000. What a system! The most weary- 


ing, endless, stupid, heartbreaking, 
physically tough and emotionally deaden- 
ing work has the longest hours AND is 
the lowest paying. Interns have to tell people 
their loved ones are dead, pronounce 
strangers dead, take responsibility for 
keeping desperately ill people alive, 
sweat blood over making mistakes that 
harm people, stay up all night as often as 
every other night, hurt people, frighten 
children, stick needles into babies, not 
eat, not sleep, and on top of all that, 
learn medicine or else — all for less pay 
than the mailroom clerks. 

They grow up to be greedheads. 

I can think of no better way to brutalize 
people than to work them like slaves by 
promising them plenty of prestige and 
money at some future date. 

Canada doesn't have the final brutali- 
zation of private enterprise medicine. The 
province runs an insurance scheme with 
small premiums, taxes the citizens and 
pays the hospitals and doctors. Only the 
improvident few who neglect to pay their 
government health insurance premiums 
(when I was student it was $5 per month — 
now it's about $40) have to pay their bills 
directly. Every patient gets exactly the 
same care. In fact, we waste money, 
using overpriced antibiotics when cheap 
ones will do, because the patient doesn't 
get billed. 

We doctors do, however, bill the pro- 
vincial medical plan on a fee-for -service 
basis. This encourages greedheads to see 
patients as fast as they can, and punishes 
slow workers like me. I can barely get 
through fifteen patients a day when 
others see forty. 

Recently there was a doctors' strike in 
Ontario. Allegedly they claimed they 
should have the right to set their own 
fees (meaning they wanted to be allowed 
to bill the patients a bit extra for each 
service). The people howled, and the 
strike was lost. Naturally, the people 
didn't want to pay rich doctors more. On 
the other hand, it's the old trade union 
truism... if what you have to sell is your la- 
bour, and your only employer won't pay 
you what your labour is worth, what do 
you do? Take what he'll offer? Year after 
year? Me, I don't believe in essential 
services... if the teachers are that essential, 
if society will be wnrecked should they 
strike, why don't we pay them enough to 
keep them on the job? if what the cops 
and firemen have to sell is their labour 
and we consider that labour essential, 
why don't we pay them so much that they 
don't have to strike? And so I have always 
supported the nurses' strikes I was involved 
in, even when it meant I had to get up 
all night long to start I.V.'s and work 
eighty, ninety, 100 hours a week for less 
pay than the nurses got for forty hours. 

When is a person so rich that he doesn't 
deserve a union? 

yours, K.E. — Vancouver, B.C. 


Nuremburg Festival 

* * * • 




—Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon 

• * • * * 


"^ U.S. Congress 


—William Casey 





Original Theme Song "CRACK FOR CONTRAS" sung by Lt Galley and Klaus Barbiel 


Processed World: 

We are proud to claim responsibility 
for the May 26 '87 sabotage oi the Tule- 
lake ice-minus experiment. Having ex- 
hausted all legal means to stop the test, 
we were left no choice but to take uncom- 
promising direct action in defense of our- 
selves and our mother, the Earth. 

By laboriously uprooting several thou- 
sand potato plants in the dead of night, 
most of which were targeted for open-air 
spraying with the genetically altered bac- 
teria on Wednesday, we have effectively 
halted (for this year, at least) the plans of 
the biotechnology industry to rush their 
httle-understood product onto the market. 

The determination of U.C. scientists in 
Tulelake (hke their A.G.S. brethren in 

Brentwood before them) to go ahead with 
the spraying in spite of the sabotage clear- 
ly illustrates that they're more interested 
in setting a precedent for open-air re- 
leases than they are in achieving valid 
scientific results. One cannot "patch to- 
gether" the scientific method, and any 
test results at this point will be meaning- 
less, despite scientists' assertions to the 

Almost nothing is known about the ef- 
fects of ice-minus bacteria on humans or 
the envirormient. Closely related strains 
have been known to cause disease in a 
variety of plants, and are reputed to af- 
fect the human immune system, though 
no studies have been done to confirm or 
deny this. One female lab technician who 
worked with ice-minus in Oakland has 
been repeatedly hospitalized with serious 



sinus problems. Farmworkers will end up 
being the human guinea pigs if "Frost- 
ban" products are ever used commer- 

Plant pathogens like ice-minus can tra- 
vel hundreds of miles by wind, and can 
reproduce normally like any other bac- 
teria. We know nothing about its effect 
on cloud formation, the wintering cycles 
of other plants, or the hydrosphere. Ice- 
minus is disturbingly similar to the ice- 
nine of Kurt Voimegut's novel Cat's Cradle, 
and we have no way of knowing that fact 
won't follow fiction. 

Like nuclear fxjwer in the 50's, genetic 
engineering is being touted as a cure-aU for 
a variety of society's problems. Yet hke 
other high-tech "solutions" in agriculture, 
ice-minus and related products will bene- 
fit only the largest agribusiness concerns, 
and do nothing to help small farmers, much 
less feed people. A revolutionary change in 
our social and economic priorities must pre- 
cede any successful efforts ^ to feed the 
hungry on this planet. 

Genetic engineering is just now emerging 
as a force to be reckoned with, and ice- 
minus is just the tip of the biogenetic ice- 
berg. Scientists are also tinkering with 
human DNA molecules, and are proceed- 
ing with questionable research in the area 
of human reproduction. Using live tissue 
cultures and women's bodies as their test- 
ing ground, these mad scientists refuse 



to look at the practical and ethical ques- 
tions raised by their research. Unless peo- 
ple make a stand now against this fool- 
hardy and unnecessary industry, a Pan- 
dora's box of genetically altered sub- 
stances will soon be loosed upon the world, 
with unpredictable and potentially cata- 
clysmic results. 

If ice-minus is such a threat to humans 
and their environment, then how, you may 
wonder, did we justify exposing ourselves 
to the bacteria by tearing the stems from 
the spuds? Rest assured that we took tre- 
mendous precautions to limit our expo- 
sure to the bacteria, and to prevent its 
being removed from the test site. 

The genetic engineering industry is only 
the most recent example of this civiliza- 
tion's (sic) drive to subjugate nature to it's 
ovra ends. This world view has resulted 
in unprecedented attacks against the eco- 
systems we depend on for life. We need 
to evolve beyond the worldview that pits 
humanity against nature, and which is a 
product of the conjunction of patriarchy 
and capitalism. 

We hope that our actions will be an in-i 

spiration to others who share our concern 

for the earth and our frustrations with 

the legal system, just as we were inspired 

by the actions of the Brentwood ecoteurs. 

No compromise in the defense of Mother 


— Anonymous 



I read with interest "Work's Diminish- 
ing Cormections" in the "infirmation-age" 
electronics industry with its wandering 
workforce transiency. I consider bicycle 
messengers to be the street component of 
the geography of information-age work 
circuits. Until there's an affordable tech- 
nology to replace us, we're the best bet 
to hurl letters, packets of paper, archi- 
tectural plans, film, etc. across midtowns. 

NYC messenger activists are getting 

constant reports of bike messenger indus- 

^ tries popping up in major North Ameri- 

JQ can and European cities. It is a relatively 

new and expanding business (although 
Tity Le^a.1 • I've read that Chicago has had a biking 

scene for decades). What we share with 
the new electronics workers is the on-the- 
road transiency, lack of organization, a 
certain "independence" and relative easy 
mobility from one company to another. 

Our transiency is quite wild. The PW 
article mentioned a 26% turnover rate 
in the electronics industry as compared 
with a 13.2% rate in workplaces as a 
whole. No one's done any studies about 
NYC messengers, but from experience 
I'd say a 70% turnover rate may be con- 
servative. Reasons for this are dangerous 
and fatiguing conditions plus a complete 
lack of worker rights, since we're often 
technically "self-employed" and not "em- 
ployees" (total bullshit — but that's another 
story). Another is that it's a wide open 
type job where one can more or less come 
and go as you please — and we do! 

It would seem an impossible trip to 
organize. Almost, but not quite. For a few 
years now NYC has had the Independent 
Couriers Association (ICA). It's been suc- 
cessful by acknowledging the limitations 
of organizing; that there is simply too 
much apathy and transiency to keep a 
group going by being based on traditional 
shop rep, committees or unions. While the 
latter is a nice fantasy, for most of our 
existence we've been a city-wide group of 
individuals working for generalized 
causes. Our "wholeism" has also helped. 
While we've gone against the companies 
for not providing workers' compensation 
insurance, we've also hit the city for regu- 

BACKWORDS LOGIC t.^ A«.Baclc>..ras-e»s 

lating us and police harassment, plus 
we've linked up with groups promoting 
bicycling and alternative transportation/ 
energy schemes. Our work in all areas 
gives us added purpose. While the tran- 
siency in the industry is reflected in the 
ICA — members come and go constantly — 
the ICA has hung on because a few in- 
terested people stick with it. So organizing 
among transients is possible. 

The ICA would love to be in touch with 
other messengers or those that know of 
other messenger organizations. For in- 
stance we've made friends with Philadel- 
phia bikers who said they'd write for our 
newsletter. In return we'll print them up 


and send them a batch. 

Rough Rider, ICA 
NY^ NY 1002? 



Dear Editors: 

I continue to be impressed with Pro- 
cessed World. I feel that it is an impor- 
tant effort toward elevating the level of 
social consciousness. 

I believe "Ace Backwordsssss' " letter in 
No. 19 hit the nail on the head. I tend to 
agree that the problems occurring within 
our modem society stem from spiritual 

I also believe that there is a danger in 
disassociating ourselves from the symbols 
we've created to represent the corporate 
monster. If we fail to see how we are re- 
lated to the monster, then it is a simple 
matter to split it off from ourselves and 
beheve that it is someone else's problem 
and not our own. 

One thing that worries me is that Pro- 
cessed World seems to cater to the intel- 
lectual and as such merely vilifies the in- 
tellectual's ovm feelings of superiority. 
The question is: How can publications of 
this kind infiltrate the nonthinking sec- 
tor and have any impact? Or is it realistic 
to suppose that the best any publication 
can do is suckle that small, elitist yet 
necessary group of people who bother to 
reflect and feel responsible? I don't have 
the answer myself so unfortunately I can't 
offer any suggestions. Maybe the important 
thing is just to keep people thinking and 
not worry about whether the affected 
group is small or large. Perhaps small 
groups do have an impact. 

Good luck to you with future issues. 

Best wishes, R.B.— Glendale, CA 


Dear World, 

I have come up with one teensy weensy 
part of one solution to the burning ques- 
tion of "How can 1 abolish the wage slave 
system, meet the needs of my family and 
get back at these bastards while on the 
job?" Well 1, for one, take every oppor- 
tunity, on company time of course, to read 
Processed World and compile mental lists 
of handy sabotage techniques just in case 
I get mad enough to use them. Sad to 
say, this doesn't happen often because, 
(un)fortunately, I like my job. They pay 
me enough, I work unsupervised, I eat 
food, drink drinks, listen to my music. 

take naps, make small decisions, big 
phone calls and dress unfashionably. They 
love me. 

I have also spent excessive amounts of 
time at work thinking about What I Want 
To Do With My Life. I've come up with a 
temporary solution that will not only re- 
move me (sort of) from the corporate world 
but will also do some good for people- 
kind — I'm gorma start a huge recycling 
business. Now we're not just talking your 
typical passive recycling here, the kind 
you see parked next to Safeway or in 
some vacant warehouse lot, their meek 
little signs beseeching you to "please recycle". 
NO! This is gorma be Gonzo Recyclingism! 





Now there's a better way- 
the MODEM-MOUTH® Modulator-Compiler Implant trom Contek. 

^Data ^^sing workforcein halj^ 

„. _,» «mam man WKttttKLS' "Jim 

MODEM-MOUTH eliminates circuit noise, especially non-work-related con- 
versation! Your entry clerks and programmers can dictate data straight into the 
^ terminall Your clerks and warehouse workers don't have to rely on tempera- 

mental bar-code readersi 

A Simple, ten-minute surgical procedure anaches the MODEM-MOUTH under ttie skin of your employee s neck. Once Implonted, 
S - MODEM-MOUTH picks up ttie ASCII ctiorocters-letters and numbers-mouthed volcelessly by the employee. Instant^ compiles 
s« l them Into the progromming languoge ot your choice, and converts them Into sound pulses Employees get the added benetit ol being 
•8 i[ able to entertain their triends with Minnie Mouse Impressions or remotely access their answering machines without using a beeperl 
•S t Avollobl* In FORTRAN, COBOL, PASCAL, and AMtmbly Language (recommended for senior programmers and onolysts only) 


People like you helping People like us help ourselves 


We'll storm into corporate headquarters 
after dark, cornering trash and collaring 
wastebaskets where they gather most — 
by your desk! You lazy corporate types 
(if any of you have the sense enough to 
read this mag) won't even have to struggle 
with the moral dilemma of what to do 
with all of those empty diet (insert your 
favorite soft drink's name here) cans. And 
good news for those of you who already 
do recycle; no more messy heaps of news- 
paper on the back porch! No more stinky 
bins of bottles in the kitchen!! We'll barge 
right into your home and personally in- 
spect each and every trash can — in your 
office, too! This is especially for all you 
Financial District types who think nothing 
of sacrificing the lives of 10,000 or more 
helpless little pieces of paper in the name 
of advancing capitalism. And if you act 
now we'll give you, free of charge, our 

special child- and nuclear-resistant bins 
for those of you who still want to separate 
your rubbish from your rugrats...!! 

This is the kind of stuff that occupies 
the more important spaces of my brain 
while the other cells house useless cor- 
porate America. Thanks for letting me 
share it with you all. 

T.O.E., a wage slave, almost vrillingly 


Dear Process Servers, 

I've been reading and hearing bad 
things about your magazine for a few 
years now, so I recently decided to try it, 
particularly upon noticing that a recent 
issue was devoted to one of my favorite 
subjects (sex). So far, I like the "Chaz Bufe" 
piece best, except for the part about 
women exploiting men for money the 
same way men exploit women for their 

How to stop working 
and earn *30^00 ayeat 

Become a Freelance Drug Merchant! 

The State™ only requires that you handle the substances approved by the Department of 
Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the National Security Council. Look for the 
President's signature on the package to make sure you're not handling ILLEGAL drugs. 


to American-imported Afghani hashish, 

Pakistani and Burmese Heroin, Paraguayan 

and Bolivian Cocaine. 

Stay high and support the 
World Anti-Communist League 
with the same consumer dollars! 


(Operator #828) 

TcU mc how much 1 can m*ke from ihe 

comfon of my own home. whUc earning 

the gratitude of my fcUow patriotic Amer- 

Smd my /ntsurur pound. O 

l)jlc,i( Birth n \..i 


White House 

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. 

Washington. DC. 


You're Is our baMbl | ' 


bodies; it made me think that perhaps Mr. 
Bufe is ugly. And his point about white 
collar women not flirting with blue collar 
men I also found goofy. Why, here in 
Minneapolis, many of our bicycle mes- 
sengers double as gigolos. Well, not really, 
but...! read in USA Today once that to- 
day's up and coming career gal, eschew- 
ing commitment because it interferes 
with career. Does indeed like to have one 
night stands with working class studs. So 
who am I to believe? Processed World or 
USA Today? 

Anyway, I publish a small free paper 
here entitled the Heathen Science Moni- 
tor. Oh, I like the Holly Near date piece 
too, but I'm not so much qualified to say 
that because I know the author and I'd 
already read it in its original, more typo- 
graphically modest, form. 

That's all. 

J . H . — Mirmeapolis 

Dear PW: 

I read "Poles 'n' holes" by Chaz Bufe in 
the Processed World #18. I would like to 
offer an in-depth critique, but time does 
not permit. Here a few thoughts though. 

First of all, "the number of reported sex 
crimes" in Denmark "dropped" because 
the statistics were tampered with (see p. 
196 of Take Back the Night). Incidences 
of rape are thought to have increased. 
SEcond, it was largely the "Danish exper- 
ience," based on highly questionable 
data, that led the Presidential Commis- 
sion to conclude that "there was no link 
between pornography and sexual vio- 
lence." Since when is an arm of the patri- 
archy considered a reliable source any- 
way? The patriarchs at the top alternate 
between supressing sexuality and en- 
couraging pseudo-"free" sexuality of the 
Penthouse variety. Third, while there are 
dangers in making pornography a central 
focus of one's work, there is nothing in- 
trinsically wrong with starting work where 
one feels a sense of personal outrage and 
then pursuing the connections wherever 
they might lead. It seems that women are 
always being told what they do is a "di- 
version," but it's O.K. for male leftists and 
Processed World to focus all attention on 
slagging off the workplace, as if that were 
intrinsically more radical. 

Fourth, contrary to Bufe, the anti-por- 
nography movement is not one monohthic 
"thing." A woman I know uses those very 
same splatter films as the starting point 
for her work. Fifth, as anyone who's been 
"objectified" at work knows, objectifica- 
tion is not a "vague" and "metaphysical" 
charge any more than it's a vague and 
metaphysical experience. Objectification 
(of women by men, and of "subjects" by 
bureaucrats) predates the "bottom line" 
of capitalism by a few millennia, and, as 
Susan Griffin points out in Pornography 
and Silence, the grotesque objectihcation 
of women in pornography is an apt meta- 


phor for the deeper malaise afflicting our 
culture as a whole. Sixth, while women 
have been socialized into the values of 
the culture just as men have and, as femi- 
nists, can be quite classist, it's a gross 
generalization to say that what all women 

want is men with money. I feel badly for 
you if that's your experience, but it's cer- 
tainly not mine. 

Seventh, how can you generalize that 
anti-pornography activists are motivated 
by Puritanism. The above-mentioned 

friend isn't, nor is Nikki Craft, founder of 
the one-time California-based "Preying 
Mantis Brigade." Eighth, your assertion 
that pornography is, at worst, "harmless" 
and, at best, a means for increasing sex- 
ual pleasure, ignores the fact that men are 
profoundly affected by the view contained 
in pornography that women want to be 
the sexual playthings of men, and gen- 
erally enjoy being used and abused. I'm 
not trying to argue any "slippery slope" 
— that using pornography inevitably 
leads to violence against women, but it is a 
known fact that violent porn (and, to one 
degree or another, all porn) legitimizes 
abuses against women and can, at times, 
serve as the inspiration for actual deeds. 

Sincerely, R.H. — Toronto, Canada 
p.s. apart from that, I found Bufe's article 
to be a somewhat useful contribution to 
an ongoing debate. 

Dear PW-ers: 

Nice mixture of desperation and de- 
fiance in the Sex Issue (#18). Chaz Bufe's 
piece ("Poles 'n' Holes") struck a nerve with 
its explication of the social invisibility of 
the minimum wage-earner, the best piece 
of rabble rousing I've read all winter. I 
talked my boyfriend into buying a copy, 
and while nothing he's told me of his reac- 
tions to it indicates that devouring PW 
makes us both feel dangerously sane, it 
sure helped pass the time as 'we waited 
for our blood test results to come back. 
Sincerely, Squirrel Bates — Oakland, CA 


The Health Epidemic 

I live in San Francisco, surrounded by 
hospitals. There are two major hos- 

pitals within a few blocks of my 

Haight-Ashbury home. Within a two 

mile radius there are at least six more. 

Some are private, some public, some 

nonprofit and others for-profit, but all 

are in heated competition to keep their 

beds full and their machines in use. 

We don't hear much about that 

reality — it's hard to get past the overwhelming health babble to examine "health care 

delivery" as an industry, an important part of the local and national economy, and a key 

area of capital accumulation, automation, and labor exploitation. 

Instead we are inundated with "soft" health information in the form of regular 

newsletters from local hospitals, advice columns in newspapers and on TV and radio, 

and — increasingly — straight commercials. I like the one for fiber something-or-other 

with the guy who starts out: "I'm not an actor. Just a regular person like you, 30 years old. 

But I had a heart attack." He's perfectly deadpan as he advises us to eat more fiber, 

especially Brand X cereal. (Later that night, on the news, "Bran Stocks Soar as Fiber 

Issues Explode!") 
This media bombardment in the form of health advice illustrates two coexisting but 
seemingly contradictory trends: on the one hand, the enormous growth of highly 
competitive, hi-tech medical industry; on the other, the tremendous national preoccupa- 
tion with health maintenance, a preoccupation partly based on mistrust of the medical 
industry and on anxiety about its spiralling costs. 


Hospitals were originally established between about 1880 and 1920. Almost all of these 
early hospitals were philanthropic in nature; they were often linked to medical schools in 

order to provide students with the 
"raw material" on which to learn their 
craft. Doctors were private practition- 
ers and still had a lot of competition 
from "quacks," that is, practitioners of 
other types of medicine. 
After 1945, as antibiotics, new surgi- 
cal techniques, and other innovations 
revolutionized western medicine, hos- 
pitals belatedly began to undergo the 

'\..By helping to discredit hi-tech medicine, alternative thera- 
pies have aided their own economic cause. . . and have contri- 
buted to a great expansion in the amount of health care that 
people feel they need. ' ' 


same process that had overtaken so 
many other industries — mechanization. 
Only fifty years ago hospitals were health 
care "workshops," where acutely ill or 
severely injured patients were brought to 
receive last-resort care — usually surgery, 
or else merely asepsis, anesthesia, food, 
and rest. The most expensive_technology 
was probably the hand-cranked operat- 
ing table or the autoclave that sterilized 
the instruments. Today, hospitals are 
highly diversified factories for testing, 
drugging, and operating on patients with 
a vast range of complaints, many of 
which were either untreatable or un- 
heard-of a generation ago. The typical 
hospital continually sprouts new special- 
ized wings, "centers," and clinics, and 
invests in hundreds of thousands of 
dollars worth of new diagnostic and 
surgical equipment every year. Moreo- 
ver, the care in many hospitals, especial- 
ly giant chains like Kaiser, has a notori- 
ously assembly-line quality; patients are 
shuffled from one overworked, harrassed 
technician, nurse, or intern to the next, 
like sides of beef in an automated 
slaughterhouse. So how did this expan- 
sion happen? Or, as a Bank of America 
billboard once asked: "Wherever did 
they get the money to buy that?" 

As with so much of the so-called pri- 
vate sector, the answer, of course, is: 
from Uncle Sam. The federal govern- 

ment has been, and continues to be, the 
single most important force behind the 
expansion of the medical industry. In 
1965, the government created Medi- 
care/Medicaid, which brought many 
previously uninsured people into the 
market for private health care. "Govern- 
ment spending, which had hitherto been 
concentrated in relatively small direct 
grants to public-health programs and 
public hospitals, skyrocketed and was 
directed to the purchase of care in the 
private sector. The programs included 
unlimited payments to hospitals for ca- 
pital expenditures — a blank check for 
private hospital expemsion" (Himmel- 
stein and Woolhandler, "Medicine as 
Industry," Monthly Review, April 1984). 
This subsidy to hospital corporations 
and doctors, which had the political 
advantage of appearing to respond to the 
militance of poor people, totaled $48 
billion in 1982, with another $25 billion 
in tax exemptions for health insurance 
and non-profit hospitals. Most tellingly, 
studies of private hospitals in Oakland, 
Berkeley, and Boston found that every 
major private hospital received more 
than 60% of its revenue from government 
sources. {Monthly Review, op.cit.) Ac- 
cording to the San Francisco Chronicle, 
hospitals made profits averaging 12 to 15 
percent on Medicare patients in 1984 
and 1985, a far higher rate of return than 

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"Thanks to New Techniques in 

Bio-Surgery, I'll never have another 

headache! And now I can bring my 

pet goldfish wherever I go! 

before Medicare's cost-control payment 
system began a year earlier. 

Medicine, Capitalism and the 
Rate of Exploitation 

Medicine's most important function in 
capitalism wais originally to improve and 
maintain the working abilities of the 
population.* Medical services were 
"wage goods" that workers paid for— 
when they could — out of their own 
pockets, or else received as charity. (The 
knowledge that one generally gets what 
one pays for helps to explain the extreme 

• There is an ironic element to this amsdysis of the 
function of medicine: while it's true that at the level 
of capitalist society as, a whole, medicine's primary 
function is to ensure the health of workers, the U.S. 
puts relatively little wealth into occupational health 
and safety, disability, and retrmning. According to 
a Mcuxh 1, 1987 NBC News special report, massive 
feilsification of occupational accident reports is the 
norm throughout U.S. industry. These reports are 
the raw data used by OSHA to determine where 
problems are amd where to inspect, and to gauge 
the relative safety of U.S. workplaces — and OSHA 
itself is being gutted. This is in keeping with the 
current trend away from any kind of long-term eco- 
nomic planning or social engineering and toward 
mjiximum short-term gain, otherwise known as 
corporate feeding frenzy. (See Dan Berman, Death 
on the Job, Monthly Review Press, for extensive 
documentation of these trends.) 



dread of illness, and especially of hospi- 
tals, £imong older working-class people. 
A few visits to the doctor were — zind still 
are, for the uninsured — a severe strain 
on the budget, and the hospital meant 
probable death.) Medicine as a com- 
modity was provided by self-employed 
artisans (doctors) rather than by full- 
scale capitalist enterprises. As the gov- 
ernment subsidized medicine's tremen- 
dous expansion, however, it became a 
great absorber of capital, growing ever 
larger and more influential. Now other 
capitalists and the government have 
revolted and are beginning to insist that 
medical capital appropriate its share 
from individual consumers rather than 
from individual productive capiteJist 
firms, from the parasitic but powerful 
insurance sector, or from the collective 
capitalist represented by the govern- 

The method for this transference has 
been to increase employee payment 
shares of company-sponsored health in- 
surance. (91% of all corporate employees 
are insured through company health- 
insurance plans" (Regina Herzlinger, 
"Corporate America's Mission Impossi- 
ble: Containing Health Care Costs" in 
Technology Review, Nov. -Dec. 1985.). In 
collective bargaining around the country 
throughout the decade, wage freezes and 
rollbacks have not been uncommon, but 



excerpted from MEDICAL NEMESIS by 

Ivan Illich. Bantam paperback, p. 5 

DorJand's Illustrated Medical Diction- 
ary 25th ed. (Philadelphia: Saunders, 
1974): "Iatrogenic (iatro — Gr. physician, 
gennam — Gr. to produce). Resulting from 
the activity of physicians. Originally 
applied to disorders induced in the pa- 
tient by autosuggestion based on the 
physician's examination manner, or dis- 
cussion, the term is now applied to any 
adverse condition in a patient occurring 
as the result of treatment by a physician 
or surgeon." 

"The study of the evolution of disease 
patterns provides evidence that during 
the last century doctors have affected 
epidemics no more profoimdly than did 
priests during earlier times. Epidemics 
came and went, imprecated by both but 
touched by neither. They are not modi- 
fied any more decisively by the rituals 
performed in medical chnics than by the 
those customary at religious shrines... 

The infections that prevailed at the 
outset of the industrial age illustrate how 
medicine came by its reputation. Tuber- 
culosis, for instance, reached a peak over 
two generations. In New York in 1812, 
the death rate was estimated to be higher 
than 700 per 10,000; by 1882, when Koch 
first isolated and cultured the bacillus, it 
had already declined to 370 per 10,000. 
The rate was down to 180 when the first 
sanitorium was opened in 1910. even 

though 'consumption' still held second 
place in the mortality tables. After 
World War II, but before antibiotics 
became routine, it had slipped into ele- 
venth place with a rate of 48. Cholera, 
dysentery, and typhoid similarly peaked 
and dwindled outside the physician's 
control. By the time their etiology was 
understood and their therapy had be- 
come specific, these diseases had lost 
much of their virulence and hence their 
social importance. The combined death 
rate from scarlet fever, diphtheria, 
whooping cough, and measles among 
children up to fifteen shows that nearly 
90 percent of the total decline in mortali- 
ty between 1860 and 1965 had occurred 
before the introduction of antibiotics and 
wddespread immimization. In part this 
recession may be attributed to improved 
housing and to a decrease in the viru- 
lence of micro-organisms, but by far the 
most important factor was a higher 
host-resistance due to better nutrition... 
Two things are certain: the professional 
practice of physicians cannot be credited 
with the elimination of old forms of 
mortality or morbidity, nor should it be 
blamed for the increased expectancy of 
life spent in suffering from the new 
diseases. For more than a century, 
analysis of disease trends has shown 
that the environment is the primary 
determinant of the state of general 
health of the population." (Emphasis 

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almost all union contracts have increased 
employee contributions to medical cov- 
erage. Health insurance premiums have 
doubled from the approximately $75 
bUlion spent in 1980. 

"The favorite cost-control strategy of 
many firms has been to modify health 
insurance policies. In 1980, for instance, 
only 5% of the firms' employees paid a 
deductible of more than $100 before 
insurance payments could begin. By 
1984, 43% paid such a deductible...' 
Similarly, "in 1980 53% of employees paid 
nothing for health insurance, but by 
i984 that number had dropped to 38% 
{Technology Review, op.cit.). Cutbacks in 
maximum coverage and services funded 
have also been widespread in the 80s. 
We can assume that these trends have 
continued since 1984. 

Such changes are part of a drastic 
increase in the society-wide rate of 
exploitation — that is, the ratio between 
gross national profit and the cost of 
maintaining the workforce as a whole, 
including the unemployed and the "un- 
productive" such as housewives and chil- 
dren. Cutbacks in government programs 
for poor people (the "socialized" part of 
the total cost of maintaining the U.S. 
workforce) are widely publicized; how- 
ever, "middle-class" workers have been 
experiencing the same process, first as 
wage freezes and cutbacks, and second, 
as increased health costs. According to 

Ivan Illich in his brilliant Medical Nemesis, 
before 1950 it took less than a month's 
income to purchase a yeau-'s worth of 
medical services, but by the mid- 70s this 
price had risen to 5-7 weeks' income on 
average. It must be well over two 
months' worth per year by now. 

Furthermore, an ever-increasing pro- 
portion of medical industry activity is 
billing, marketing, recording, paying, 
and administrative overhead, said to 
amount to some $78 billion in waste in 
U.S. health care system annually. " Part 
of the problem is that more competition 
will mean more such waste. Only com- 
peting caregivers require strategic plan- 
ning, marketing and pricing overheads. 
Enduring mistrust between payers and 
caregivers multiplies record keeping for 
each" (Alan Sager, "Opiate of the Man- 
agers" 5'oa>(>', July- Aug. 86). 

We are witnessing a free-for-all in the 
medical marketplace, in which shrewd 
doctors are creating ambulatory surgical 
clinics to take high-profit outpatient 
surgery away from much larger hospi- 
tals. It is comparable to an entrepreneur 
setting up a small factory to make 
specialty products that can be sold for a 
hefty profit, thereby wiping out a much 
larger producer who balanced some 
money-losing or low-profit but socially 
beneficial activity with the high-profit 
activity now taken away. Competition 
leads to amputation of unprofitable ser- 

vices from profitable ones. 

Concentration is bringing in more 
investment capital, leading to an in- 
crease in for-profit hospitals, ambulatory 
c£ire centers, and plastic surgery dsid 
other strictly-for-the-rich medical servic- 
es. It is also putting the financial squeeze 
on health workers (see "Kaiser Don't 
Care-SEIU Neithei' in PW 19). Alrea- 
dy, many hospitals are turning away 
indigent or uninsured patients, even 
when they are obviously in critical 

I Have Seen the Future, 
And It Doesn't Work 

Not only is hi-tech commercial medi- 
cine engendering a bloated and unba- 
lanced system of health care, but it is 
often ineffective and even dangerous. 
Illich points out that hospitals have a 
higher reported accident rate than any 
other industry except mining and high- 
rise construction. One need not entirely 
agree with his blistering condemnation of 
"clinical iatrogenesis" (in which reme- 
dies, physicians, and hospitals are the 
pathogens or "sickening agents"— see 
sidebar) to acknowledge the growing con- 
cern among even mainstream analysts 
about unnecessary medical practices 
running amok. "According to one Har- 
vard medical school physician, at best 
only about 30 to 50 percent of health care 

OOM (cues'. \Hl% 60f iUHbi 

PlUi UNO Ri-umi P6- , 



services are eftective, and the rest border 
on unnecessary care" {Technology Review, 
op.cit.). In fact, there is no national 
system of evaluating medical practices. 
The Food and Drug Administration 
oversees, to some extent, the introduc- 
tion of new chemicals into general use; 
but doctors, through the American 
Medical Association and professional 
associations in each state, are left to 
regulate themselves. They jealously 
guard this privilege by intense lobbying 
and by howling to the media about 
"creeping socialism" whenever an upstart 
legislator tries to introduce some gov- 
ernment oversight. 

In his Society article, Alan Sager says, 
"We should cut clinical costs by identify- 
ing what care works and what does not. . . 
we could make rapid progress... if we 
devote a fraction of the money now 
wasted in processing health insurance 
claims to studying what works" {Society, 
op.cit.). Regina Herzlinger makes a 
similar point in her Technology Review 
article: "Files on insurance payments are 
massive, but they are organized to 
facilitate payments rather than to identi- 
fy patterns of use." 

Health Care Alternatives, Limited 

Given that "modern" medical techni- 
ques remain largely unevaluated, it's no 
surprise that alternative health care has 
attracted many people. Since my early 


Recreational drug ip^/ 
of choice? 

Graduate of Josepfi [h 
Mengele School of ^^ 
Cosmetic Surgery? V 

Trembling Hands? 

0Maipractice insurance 
coverage over 

Psychotic Profile? 

Can he see? 

Before you have plastic surgery, 
give your doctor a checkup. 

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B^B^^'^' WH£J?E AWtT^^^J 



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...rut end; 

adulthood in the mid-70s, my friends 
and acquaintances have been seriously 
concerned about their health. They have 
spent coundess hours dutifully exercising 
and studying nutrition, self-help health 
practices, macrobiotics, or yoga. Many 
have also turned to acupuncture, chiro- 
practic, homeopathy, and numerous 
other "health care options." This pur- 
suit, shared by millions of Americans, 
may be pzirtly an attempt to gain control 
over an out-of-control life. It is also 
cheaper and often more effective: you 
don't need $250,000 machines to create 
or administer Chinese herbs, and limit- 
ing your intake of saturated fats is 
undoubtedly better than bypass surgery. 
However, I am not concerned here with 
the efficacy of any particular alternative 
therapy or preventive practice. My in- 
tention is, rather, to suggest a paradox: 
the possible contribution of such thera- 
pies and practices to fueling the demand 
for health care in general. 

The strange fact is that despite the 
enormous growth in self-care, the market 
for medical services has not shrunk. 
Instead it has grown by leaps and 
bounds. By helping to discredit hi-tech 
medicine, alternative therapies have aid- 
ed their own economic cause, undoubt- 
edly benefitting thousands of people in 
the process. However, they also have 
contributed to a great expansion in the 
amount of health care that people feel 
they need. 

Moreover, much of the people-before 
-profits philosophy that informed the 

early alternative health care movement 
was lost in the rush to develop and offer 
workable alternatives to hi-tech hospi- 
tals. The critique of health as a com- 
modity, never very well developed, 
evaporated entirely as holistic entre- 
preneurs put up a supermarket of alter- 
native therapies. Many became rich in 
the process. 

The range of choices in this therapeu- 
tic supermarket is directly affected by 
insurance companies' willingness to fund 
specific treatments. As alternative health 
options have gained in popularity, medi- 
cal insurance has brainched out to pro- 
vide limited coverage for acupuncture, 
homeopathy, chiropractic, and so forth. 
Insurers recognize that any medical ther- 
apy, regardless of actual efficacy, is a 
source of profit as long as premiums stay 
ahead of insurance benefit payments. 

Others who are profiting from the 
health boom include manufacturers of 
vitamins and other dietary supplements, 
suppliers of exercise clothes and equip- 
ment, and makers of "natural" foods. 
Meanwhile, as usual in this society, form 
has overwhelmed substance. Factory- 
farm eggs tinted brown to simulate the 
free-range product of yore are sold in 
every supermarket, and even sugar- 
laden granola bars are now marketed as 
health products. There is no evidence, 
moreover, that the consumers of all these 
"healthy" products are any less likely to 
head for the nearest clinic or hospital 
when something goes seriously wrong. 

This may be partly because the health- 



The privatization of publicly funded 
(through Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue 
Cross and other "voluntary" insurance 
programs) health care may turn out to be 
one of the most socially damaging lega- 
cies of the Reagan administration. It has 
forced hospitals to be rim as profit 
making institutions with one eye on the 
product line (in this case, patient care) 
and the other on the bottom line. 

In that halcyon year of voodoo econo- 
mics. 1982, the State of CaUfornia decided 
to control rising health costs by making 
hospitals more competitive. To this end, it 
passed legislation that required hospitals 
to bid competitively for the privilege of 
being MediCal (the state's insurance plan 
for the medically indigent) providers. The 
bidding was on a per diem rate with 
collateral costs, such as x-rays and lab 
tests, averaged in. Only those hospitals 
whose bids were within the state's guide- 
lines would receive MediCal reimburse- 

This legislation also allowed insurance 
companies to offer Preferred Provider 
Organization (PPO) contracts. Under the 
PPO system, a hospital agrees to charge 
the insurance company a special rate for 
its dients. In return, the insurance com- 
pany more-or-less guarantees a certain 
volume of patients to its preferred hospi- 
tals. It does this by charging insurees a 
larger proportion of the hospital bill, if 
they choose a non-PPO facility. 

For the hospitals, the new economics 
meant a change in the way they do 
business. Before a hospital cuts a deal 
with an insurance company, it must 
figure how much it costs to treat certain 
groups of patients (coronary bypass, 
maternity, traimia, etc.) and how much it 
can charge and still remain competitive. 
What the insurer is later billed depends 
on the predetermined amount assigned to 
each diagnostic group irrespective of the 
actual cost of a particiilar patient's 
treatment. Simply put, the hospital re- 
ceives the same amount for treating a 
broken leg whether three x-rays are 
taken or four. 

Since some diagnostic groups — or pro- 
duct Unes — are more profitable for a 
hospital than others, hospitals try to 
make deals with those insurers whose 
clients needs are most compatible with 
their optimum 'case-mix'. (A case-mix is 
the per cent of patients in each diagnos- 
tic group a hospital treats.) Hospitals, 
like any memufacturing or retail opera- 
tion, must provide a range of goods and 
services with the more profitable busi- 
ness lines financing other less profitable, 
but still necessary, activity. The ideal 
case mix varies from hospital to hospital. 

like the ideal product mix varies from 
store to store. (Some lines — like bum 
units or furniture — use up so many re- 
sources that they are rarely profitable, 
while others — like birth centers and 
sportswear — are proven moneymakers.) 
If. for example, a hospital makes more 
money on coronary care than trauma 
cases, it may decide not to do business 
with an insurer who has a lot of young 
people on its books who are more hkely to 
be in car or sports-related accidents. 

Still, hospitals can not always pick and 
choose their patients. If a patient's costs 
run over what the insurer has agreed to 
pay, the treatment comes out of the 
hospital's profits. There have been pub- 
lished complaints from doctors and nurs- 
es who feel that patients may be dis- 
charged too early because of pressures 
from hospital administrators to cut costs. 
Perhaps, the threat of a malpractice suit 
is the patient's only defense against 
cut-rate treatment. Meanwhile, hospitals 
spend huge simis on public relations and 
advertising in order to fill their beds. The 
situation is not unlike a restaurant that 
would rather serve three parties at a 
table during the dinner hour than have 
one party linger for the whole evening. 
As they rush the first group of diners out 
the door, they are busy scouting for new 

The PPO system works, but probably not 
in the way it was intended. Hospital and 
insurance costs have not gone dovra, but 
the hospital industry is thriving judging 
from the expansion of existing facilities 
and the increasing nvimber of for-profit 
institutions like the Humana group. As it 
was explained to me when I interviewed 
for a job in the data processing depart- 
ment of Seton Hospital in Daly City, 
even not-for-profit hospitals run by nuns 
have to act like profit making corpora- 
tions in order to survive. 

If health care can be privatized, why not 
the educational system through the use 
of school vouchers, as some have pro- 
posed? (I can imagine schools contract- 
ing to teach the 3 Rs to students they 
considered teachable, with the rest being 
consigned to the educational equivalent 
of the county hospital.) The public 
schools are a disaster, not because they 
are supported by the state, but because 
they are so poorly supported; still most 
people would not want to see education 
put entirely into private hands. Isn't 
medical care analogous to education? 
Finally, the question is do we want the 
quality of our hospital care to be in- 
fluenced by some corporation's bottom 

by Ana Logue 

care industry has also exploited wellness 
ideology with great success. The critique 
of hi-tech hospitzils pre-dates by more 
than a decade the current attempts to 
curb hospital economic growth. Altema- 
tivists of the 60s correcdy argued against 
the unlimited application of drugs and 
machines to treat disease. But as their 
medical "less-is-more" message seeped 
through the general population, it also 
blended nicely with the medical indus- 
try's need to cut costs and diversify. 
Astute health care corporations are de- 
emphasizing capital-intensive diagnostic 
and curative services in favor of "health 
maintenance" centers and clinics for 
every conceivable subgroup of the popu- 
lation—pregnant mothers, nursing 
mothers, women in general, infants, 
children, older people, athletes — and for 
various pauts of the body — the breast, 
the foot, the back, cuid so on. How long 
before we see the Midlife Woman Exec- 
utive's Toe Clinic, or the Sporting 
Father's Elbow Center? And how much 
illness or injury do such centers and 
clinics really prevent? True, some 
cancers and other problems are best 
caught early, but the preventive care 
mystique is clearly being exploited by the 
medical industry in order to keep healthy 
people passing through its doors. 

The alternative health movement has 
ended up reinforcing the system it set out 
to transform. Its objections to orthodox, 
drug-and-machine medicine have both 
provided zui ideological cover for shifting 
health caure costs back onto workers and 
opened up new markets in corporate- 
style preventive caure. More profoundly, 
the failure of the alternative health care 
movement to develop and jxtpularize an 


analysis of the social causes and treatment 
of illness has fed into the continuing 
substitution of paid services for human 

The Social Psychology 
of the Service Economy 

In the simple act of going to the 
doctor, people reproduce an elaborate 
and ideologically loaded set of social 
relations: The patient has an illness. The 
doctor, the expert, will define the illness 
by objectively examining and testing the 
patient's body. The patient or her insurer 
will pay for this service. The doctor will 
then treat the patient's illness, often by 
prescribing drugs manufactured by phar- 
maceutical companies that the patient must 
buy from another expert called a phar- 
macist. These roles, actions, and defin- 
itions are not "natural." Calling them 
into question provides a window onto 
the psychological and structural trans- 
formations that have accompanied the 
rise of the service economy. 

This rise has meant that more and more 
of the things people once did for them- 
selves are now being sold to them by 
corporations or independent profession- 
als. Health care is among the most 
glziring examples. Today, most people 
have abandoned home remedies for 
over-the-counter drugs and/or a visit to 
the doctor, who often authorizes pre- 



TO JAK^ you \H FOR 

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scription drugs. If the doctor runs tests, 
diagnostic machines get used, thus help- 
ing to pay their amortization cost. And 
behind the doctor and the clinic or 
hospital she probably works for stand the 
multinational pharmaceutical compa- 
nies, the "med-tech" equipment builders, 
the genetic engineering firms... It's a 
classic example of the Invasion of the 

As the service economy pushes its fron- 
tiers outward with the shock troops of 
advertising, most people come to see 
their problems as individual predica- 
ments to be solved by purchasing the 
right product or service. They have less 
and less confidence that they czm solve 
their problems themselves or with the 
help of friends or family. This lack of 
confidence in turn legitimates the exper- 
tise of the professional who provides the 
purchased service. Lack of confidence, 
moreover, is exacerbated by lack of time, 
as long commutes and unpaid "salaried" 
overtime further eat up the day, and by 
lack of human support, as atomized 
suburbs and roodess, neighborless urban 
"neighborhoods" isolate their residents. 

More and more areas of human endea- 
vor and interaction are falling under the 
sway of the marketplace. A commonly 
cited example is the ever-growing use of 
the courts — and therefore of lawyers — to 
setde disputes that would once have been 
setded by community mediation, or 


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Sexual anxieties can now be 

permanently relieved with this 

exciimg breakthrough in medical 

technology: The Genital Eraser! 

perhaps by a fist-fight. Likewise, profes- 
sional "counseling' or low-intensity psy- 
chotherapy now often substitutes for 
talking your problems over with a close 
friend. Other common species are the 
home computer consultant, the travel 
agent, and the resume expert. Not that 
such professionals don't often offer useful 
and time-saving services; I have benefit- 
ted from them myself. My point here is 
the way our rushed, anxious, and isolat- 
ed existence makes us increasingly de- 
pendent on them. Even the lowest-paid 
workers buy the services of fast food 
franchises and child care centers, as well 
as those of the omnipresent lawyers and 

Social Change As Public Health 

Ironically, most of the great victories 
over infectious disease resulted from 
improvements in public health rather 
than from the treatment of individuals. 
The creation of underground sewer and 
piped water systems, along with slum 
clearance, played important roles in this 
process; however, the decisive factor 
seems to have been the strengthening of 
immune systems owing to better diet (see 
sidebar, pg. 12). 

That better diet was paid for out of 
higher wages. And where did these 
higher wages come from? Certainly not 
from the humanitarian pleading of the 
medical profession, still less from the 
willing beneficence of the business class. 
They were won by the dogged efforts of 


countless, anonymous working men and 
women, who, in the course of countless 
strikes, picketed, sabotaged, occupied, 
dynamited, and otherwise made the lives 
of their employers uncomfortable and 
unprofitable until their demainds were 
met. These men and women knew 
perfecdy well that their health and that of 
their families was not a personail prob- 
lem; they knew that lack of fresh produce 
translated into constant colds and in- 
fluenza, lack of milk into rickets and thin 
hair, bad water into dysentery and 
cholera, and twelve-hour workdays un- 
der hazardous conditions into short, 
exhausted, hopeless lives. Throughout 
Asia, Africa, and Latin America, these 
battles are still being fought; and even 
here, the gains of the last half century are 
endangered.* Meanwhile, other fronts 
have opened up. 

The most obvious of these fronts is 
environmental pxjllution. The well- 
publicized disasters like Love Canal, the 
Rhine, Bhopal, or Chernobyl, horrific as 
they are, are only the surface of the 
problem. In their normail operation, the 
chemical plants and nuclear reactors of 
the world are Bhopals and Chemobyls in 
slow motion, releasing legal, "permissi- 
ble" levels of radioactivity and chemo- 
toxins that aire accumulating in the bi- 
osphere, climbing the food chain toward 
us, or setding into our lungs, our fatty 
tissue, and our bones. 

Another front is the conditions of work 
in the new "clean" sectors, including the 
headth-care industry itself. Processed World 
has helped to publicize the health risks 
facing VDT operators, telephone service 
reps, and chip makers. The stress and 
the poisons associated with these jobs are 
combining with other environmental 
toxins in an unpredictably hideous syn- 
ergy to produce cancer, infertility, mis- 
carriages and birth defects, and various 
kinds of immune deficiency. 

Just as the well-to-do in the last century 
blamed the bad health of impoverished 
workers on their laziness and unsanitary 
habits, business, government, and the 
mass media routinely ignore or suppress 
the connections between polluted envi- 
ronment and hazardous work on the one 
hand and new kinds of illness on the 
other. And this silence and silencing still 
goes largely unchallenged. Interior Se- 
cretary Donald Hodel didn't actually get 
away with suggesting that we step out in 
sunscreen, dairk glasses, and long sleeves 

If any further evidence were needed, a recent 
study, cited in the 8/7/87 San Francuco Examiner, 
concludes that about half of all patients admitted to 
intensive care in U.S. hospitals are suffering from 
malnutrition, and that doctors seldom recognize 
malnutrition when they see it because it has been 
omitted from their training. 

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Leads to higher profits 

Think about it: The frantic workpace and absurd productivity 
demands, dehumanizing interpersonal relations, and meaningless 
work foimd in nearly every company provide a great market for 

our product: 


A message from Concerned Marijuana Farmers of North America, 

Inc., a Trans-National Association of Selfless, Altruistic Medical 

Professionals... Serving you since 1968. 

as a substitute for halting the destruction 
of the ozone layer by refrigerants; but he 
obviously thought he was going to. 

The health care industry depends on a 
sustained demand for its services just like 
any other. Is it surprising, then, that 
there is a tremendous institutionalized 
resistance to accepting the powerful ar- 
guments linking disease to environmen- 
tal and occupational causes? No matter 
how sound the ethics of many individual 
physicizuis or health bureaucrats, the 
health care industry needs continuing 
high levels of sickness. Attributing ill- 
ness to individual behavior accomplish- 
es at least two things: 

1) /< ensures ongoing sources of demand, 
that is, it reinforces people's acceptance 
of environmental sickening agents. 

2) Sick or hurt people are disempowered 

and less likely to see themselves as part 
of a larger group; the lingering suspici- 
on is that some mist£ike or moral failing 
caused their illnesses or accidents. This 
prejudice is particularly obvious in the 
case of that great killer, the car acci- 
dent. The social choice to kill some 
10,000 people a year by maintaining a 
transit system based on private autos is 
passed off as the victims' "bad driving^ 
or "bad luck." 

Unfortuiiately, the holistic health move- 
ment's justified insistence on the close 
connections between mind and body — 
specifically, between brain chemistry 
and the immune system — has also fed 
into this ideology. Cancer victims, for 
instance, are often suspected of having 
had a bad diet or some sort of neurosis. 
This leads, pathetically, to the faith that 


"looking after ourselves" will prevent 
such catastrophes, and to blaming our- 
selves when it does not. I am haunted by 
a scene in Unnatural Causes, a recent 
network docudrama about Agent Or- 
ange: a Vietnam vet who was massively 
exposed to dioxin ten years earlier is told 
that he has multiple inoperable tumors. 
"But I don't smoke, I eat all natural foods 
and stuff," he stammers. "It's not fair." 

In Europe, after World War II, working 
-class demands for a collective solution to 
health problems forced the creation of 
national health services that dispensed 
medical care at low or no cost to all 
citizens, and (in Britain at least) empha- 
sized preventive care. These services 
p>ersist to this day, despite the efforts of 
recent right-wing governments to abolish 
them. National health insurance is a 
favorite plank in the platforms of liberal 
°° o oo « oo « oo ~ oo _ oo _ 

Democrats, and it is still not a bad goal. 
It would, however, leave untouched the 
broader public health problems I have 
alluded to. It is not merely health care 
that should be a human right, but 
freedom from socially and technological- 
ly created pathogens — from hunger to 
excessive stress, from cotton dust to 
PCBs. The struggle for health now is the 
struggle to transform the entire structure 
of our society. 

Lest this seem overwhelming, there are 
plenty of places to start. What might 
happen, for instance, if conimunity 
groups fighting a hospital expainsion 
went beyond questions of land use and 
"environmental impact" to assert their 
right to evaluate the medical philosophy, 
efforts, and expenditures of the hospital? 
The same principle could zind should be 
applied to factories, office buildings, and 

)000_00 V Oo o. 

other workplaces. Other more conven- 
tional kinds of biological self-defense, 
like fighting against nuclear power and 
toxic waste dumping, £ind for safer, more 
relaixed working conditions, are all es- 
sential too. Such health insurance as we 
have needs expanding. More anti-AIDS 
fiinds must be squeezed out of the 
government. All these campaigns might 
be waged more effectively, however, if 
the pzirticipants situated them within a 
long-term struggle for collective, demo- 
cratic control over all aspects of social 
life, and for a seine relationship to the 
biosphere. In the final analysis, our 
health is the health of the planet, and 
both depend on our creating a vasdy 
freer and more cooperative world. We 
don't have forever. 

by Lucius Cabins & Louis Michaelson 


o o o 




.WITH .. ^ 




O O o 


JTfflAT'i GREhi, 


Graphic by RL Tripp 



We don't like your feelings, said the boss. 

He was reading my file. 

His desk was surrounded by barbed wire 

and topped with broken glass. 

1 knelt in front of it. 

You feel angry, he said. 

You feel shamed by the official cruelties you commit 

You feel. 

Til change," 1 promised. 

I rummaged hastily in my bag for a mask. 

Your eyes are too blue, he went on. 

Be green eyed. 

"Right," 1 agreed. 

"contact lenses, " I jotted down. 

You're too tall, he said, 

raising his eyes from his notes. 

Be shorter. Your feet... 

"amputation, " 1 wrote quickly. 

But a thought occurred. 

"How will I be able to work?" I ventured 

Live on your knees, he said. 

by K.B. Emmott 


He gives me eyes 
to stare back at 

hands me a nipple 
he made himself 

He admits that sometimes 
his people are disappointed 

He has to remind them 


he isn't God 

though he's laboured longer 

on the blues of an iris 

or an ear's 



The spare parts man 
does brave work 

but he shies away 
from my praise 

When he gives me his hand 

it's warm 

and his smile is genuine 

by Glen Downie 


I think more of myself 
when there's less of me 
to think about 

if I can't subtract years 
1 can always 
take amnesia pills 

I'm at my best 
just after a haircut 
ril go on a diet 

even though I'm underweight 
thank god for the company's 
insurance benefits 

I can get warts fingers 

internal organs 

removed at no cost to myself 

second opinions always concur 
if you want to survive 
you have to travel light 

by William Talcott 

O O O o o 


Studies have shown 

doctors are compulsives who never achieve 

the impossible standards they have set for themselves 

they suffer from rescue fantasies 
and an excessive need to be needed 

this causes them to take on too much work 

and to lie awake 

worrying about the patients 

and then to drink 

or to dofje themselves in solitude 

so you see 

if I don't care about you 

the way I used to 

it's a sign of my improving mental health. 

by K.B. Emmott 

o Oq oO Oo 

OOOq O OoOo« 

„Oo„o "o OO Oo o ° o 

° \° o ^° ° ° oO Oo ©Oo oO o* 
w"OoOo o«o" 


They're personal 

like the teeth glistening on their wire 

next to the bedside 

like the numeric IDs rigid between leather 

the new upholstery and the prescription for rest 

Each morning a fresh catalog 

sprouts rolled-up on the doorstep 

for Him something restrained and conservative 

polished mandibles and gunmetal finish 

for Her the very thing fluffy with lots of tiny bells 

A whole set on foreign affairs 

nestles in the purses or the lunchbox 

So many we're giving them away 

by the squirming handful 

At party time they whine and scratch at the door 

you let them in and they frolic 

on the carpet trailing silvery threads of drool 

How cute where did he team that 

I prefer eight legs myself 

But careful after a few drinks they can get nasty 

a toothy little skull crunched underfoot 

and Who asked for yours 

Best to keep them on a leash at all times 

make sure they get plenty of blood for when 

our smile comes to the door with a clipboard 

asking to see them 

then bet on the favorite and watch it come in ahead 

Friday on the late news 

Above all be sure to lock them indoors at night 

safe from the floating shadow with owl's eyes 

whose wingbeats 

trouble your sleep into sweat and waking rage 

Remember they alone are the measure of your freedom 

Without them we could never decide 

what is best for you 

by Adam Comford 


There is a difference be- 
tween work and working. 
All my adult life I've been 
hard at work as a writer. 
And although writing is 
not always a perfect activ- 
ity, it is the work I love to 
do. However, with the 
economic pressures of the 
1980s and the additional 
responsibilities of solely 
supporting two children, 
my subsistence on menial 
jobs and an occasional 
royalty ended, and I was 
forced to really start work- 
ing. The first thing I dis- 
covered about working 
was that it made me sick. 

Ironically enough, my sick- 
ening new job was at the Data 
Center of the Kaiser Medical 
Care Program, one of the largest 
health care organizations in the 
country. For the first few weeks 
at the Data Center, my problem 
was exhaustion. Besides showing 
up at work every day in Walnut 
Creek, a suburban town thirty 
freeway minutes away, I had a 
commitment to my son's soccer 
games, my daughter's gymnastics 
class. Then I had to manage 
grocery shopping after the chil- 
dren's bedtime, and what seemed 
like a thousand errands on the 
weekend. In addition, there were 
the cherished friendships that at 
first I tried to maintain, not to 
mention the unfinished stories 
that lay in heaps on my desk at 
home, waiting for a few seconds 
of attention. Suddenly, I had 
money, but no time. No time to 
think, no time to relax, and no 
time to do my real work of 

The fatigue gradually eased. I 
discovered that errands could be 
taken care of during lunch hour. 
Clothes could be dropped at the 



at the 



cleaners in Walnut Creek. Not 
only thinking, but even actual 
writing— scribbled on notepads 
— could be done during the com- 
mute in the car. The children 
were adjusting to my absences in 
the late afternoon, my frenzies in 
the evening, and my shorter and 
shorter temper as the week wore 
on. Although I was unavailable 
during the week, suddenly I 
could buy them presents on the 
weekend. My friends too got 
used to my excuses, and the 
manuscripts were put on hold. 

My job as a technical writer re- 
quired that I operate a computer termi- 
nal most of the day. At the end of my 
inaugural month, I made an appoint- 

ment for my first pair of glasses. Not 
only did this work aggravate my astig- 
matism, but I needed glasses to shield 
my eyes from the glare of the computer 
screen and the fluorescent lights. I soon 
noticed that all the 400-odd employees 
in this building wore glasses too, and 
when I inquired among my co-workers 
how long they had been wearing them, 
many responded that it had been since 
they had arrived there. 

In the second month, my nasal pas- 
sages began to resemble a sewer system. 
Although I didn't have a cold, I sneezed, 
wheezed, coughed, and spewed. My 
boss looked on sympathetically. She 
assured me that it was not hay fever and 
suggested I stock up on the boxes of 
cheap tissues stored for the personnel. 
Apparently, everyone in my department 
had experienced a similar reaction to the 
closed atmosphere, and I was consoled 
that I would soon adjust to the air or the 
absence thereof. My boss was right. I 
adjusted and moved on to deeper male- 

By the seventh week my scalp itched 
so badly that I had myself inspected for 
head lice. Rather than a colony of small 
living creatures on my head, there were 
giant flakes of dead skin amassing under 
my hair like icebergs. I was told that this 
was a simple and common nervous 
condition and that with tar shampoo 
and a metal comb, I could stifle the 
uncomfortable itch. One visit to the 
drug store fixed me right up. 

Herpes is an unwelcome guest that 
visits me from time to time. I had had 
rare occurrences of this pesty virus, but 
during my third month working, I 
experienced four outbreaks in four 
weeks. Finally, on advice from a friend, 
I took large doses of lysine, and my 
herpes rage subsided. 

After three days of actually feeling 
good, I believed that my days of initia- 
tion had passed, and that I was now a 
perfectly adjusted worker. 

I was wrong. I woke up the first 
Thursday of my fourth month with a 
pain that spanned the distance between 
my top vertebrae, apdy called the adas, 
and my left armpit. Suddenly, I was a 
cripple. I couldn't raise my left arm 
above the elbow. The weight of a coat or 
the strap of a purse was intolerable. 
Sleep was only possible with a heating 
pad and several piUows to hoist my J 
upper left quadrant like a cast. I imme- ^ 
diately made appointments with the g 

physical therapist and apologized to my | 
boss that I would be leaving early on * 
Friday for a massage. « 

Although the pain in my shoulder felt o. 

as if it would never go away, by o 


Christmas things had improved. Our 
family took a short trip to the moun- 
tains, and by the first of the year, I was 
rehabilitated. Then, on January 6, the 
beginning of my fifth month, I experi- 
enced a totally new physical sensation. 
Stuffy noses were old hat, back and neck 
tension the side effects of adulthood, 
herpes the scourge of my generation, 
djindruff a cosmetic inconvenience, but 
breathlessness was unprecedented. My 
inability to catch my breath terrified 
me, and for a split second every quarter 
hour, I suspected I was close to dying. 
Although I had cross-country skied at 
8000 feet the week before, as soon as I 
recommenced by work schedule, I 
couldn't breathe. I rationalized that it 
was a reaction to a mid-month deadline, 
but the deadline came and went. The 
breathlessness did not. 

I sat down and thought about it. 
Obviously, I couldn't catch my breath 
because I didn't have time. At home I 
set a few minutes aside to take deep, 
slow inhalations. At these times I told 
myself that the rush of life coursing 
through my lungs faster than it should 
could slow down. It could rest. I would 
try to help it. I pleaded with my 
circulatory system to make it happen 

And yes, this malady mysteriously 
subsided, and I began to inhale at a 
normal rate. Again, I fell prey to the 
illusion that I was well. True, I was 
managing my days. But at night I had 
begun to experience an onslaught of 
nightmares. The gruesome thought oc- 
curred to me that as one ailment 
resolved itself, it was replaced by anoth- 
er, more ominous than its predecessor. 
The mythical Hydra was rearing its ugly 
heads, and they were all inside my own. 

I didn't have to look far for the causes 
of my trauma. One was the building 
itself. A prison architect had designed it. 
Its few windows were slits that only ten 
executives had the privilege of looking 
through. The ceilings were hung low, 
and every fifth rectangle of particle 
board was replaced with a fluorescent 
light. The inside walls, the industrial 
carpeting, and the desk and file cabinets 
were a matching beige. The tiny cubi- 
cles were sepzirated by five-foot high 
dividers, and the sounds of office ma- 
chines, conversations, nail clippers, and 
occasional groans dispersed into the 
open space above them. 

Privacy here was a ludicrous concept, 
and I considered it perverted good 
fortune to overhear the phone conversa- 
tions of my immediate neighbor. This 
man had a Korean girlfriend whom he 
spoke to daily. His questions to her were 

in stilted, sotto voce English, apparently 
in imitation of her own. Phrases like, 
■^e go there together" were suggestive 
enough on a Tuesday afternoon to 
sound racy. By Friday, his monosyllabic 
exchanges were downright pornogra- 

With this exception, however, the 
human sounds that filled the back- 
ground were white noise. The atmos- 
phere was profoundly lifeless even while 
filled with people. When I worked my 
first weekend, I was shocked, then 
depressed, to realize that inside this 
completely empty building the impres- 
sion was exactly the same as a regular 
workday: it felt like no one was ever 

Another source of deep irritation was 
the surrounding environment. The 
building was located in a suburban 

flourishing, and the impressive peak of 
Mount Diablo hovered above only a few 
miles away. The highways and indus- 
trial complexes were less than five years 
old, the housing subdivisions only 
slighdy older. 

For diversion at noon I walked out 
into the streets, sometimes venturing 
past the satellite commerical centers into 
the housing areas. Generally, there were 
no sidewalks, and except for landscaped 
spots of botanical wonders, the area was 
desolate, a human desert with garages 
and lawns. 

Once back in the shopping center, I 
strolled along studying the display win- 
dows, looking for anything that I might 
find curious. Until my forays into these 
suburban dead zones, life had always 
presented itself to me as a series of 

curiosities — strange 

images, bizarre 

industrial park. Put all white collar 
workers together in clean buildings, and 
everything wUl begin to resemble every- 
thing else. People included. Hang the 
sadist who thought of this innovation. 

Within one to six blocks of this 
building in any direction were identical 
shopping centers. There were large 
grocery stores distinguished only by the 
name of the chain. There were also one 
repulsive Chinese restaurant, three shoe 
stores, a deli for the ethnics, a yogurt 
bar for the unconventional dieters, and 
a hardware store. 

Actually, it was wonderful mental 
exercise to imagine the terrain without 
the blight of human mediocrity. Walnut 
Creek had both young and old trees 

happenings, ridiculous juxtapositions 
— and my job was to hunt them down, 
take note, and wonder. Here, I found 
not even one. There was nothing com- 
ing out of this environment, and, as I 
feared, there was nothing coming out of 
me. Except for the money that I could 
exchange with the humain beings behind 
the veu^ious counters, these walks were 
voids. Usually, they climaxed with a 
small purchase — a Baby Ruth, an Al- 
mond Roca, a bowl of wonton soup. 

Back inside, I foUowed the suit of my 
co-workers. I tried to beautify, or rather 
personalize, my half of my cubicle. I 
brought in colorful drawings by my 
daughter, photos of my loved ones. My 
cube-mate had pictures of her cats, an 


extensive collection of African violets, 
and a worn copy of John Donne's 
poems. Most people in the building 
exhibited some such paraphernalia, re- 
minding them who they were and 
informing the rest of us who they might 
be — if we were to meet by chance at a 
bar, a political rally, or a P.T.A. 
meeting. These remnants of each person 
that I noticed while walking through the 
maze of halls were always vivid and sad 
to me. They reminded me of cultural 
rituals in which the dead are buried with 
their most prized possessions. Despite 
this, I took deep pleasure in looking at 
my six- year-old's watercolors. They 
served to remind me of the world 
outside: spontaneous, playful, lovely. 

Eight hours a day, I felt confined to 
something litde better than a prison. I 
could have been accused of ingratitude. 
After all, I wasn't unemployed, living in 
a shelter, or on welfare. And if this was 
prison, I was decently paid. How could 
I be such a whiner? Did I think painting 
watercolors was a way to earn a living? 
Why did I have such a distorted view of 
my life? Why did I think I was special? 

Most of us white baby boomers were 
raised in incredible prosperity. Our 
childhood years fostered a myth that the 
middle classes have only partaken of 
once or twice in history — perhaps in 
England during the Victorian Era, and 
certainly in the United States after the 
Second World War. Money then could 
buy many, many people not only tons of 
material goods, but lots of leisure time. 
The myth, of course, was that this 
prosperous time would go on and on. It 
hasn't. Today, most middle-class wom- 
en work outside the home. And they 
have little choice in the matter. 

I wasn't shirking, but I was dumb- 
founded by the drudgery. Around me, 
co-workers talked of new cars and boats 
and plans for vacations, home remodel- 
ing and shopping sprees. These things 
outside of work, that only the money 
made working could finance, were their 
incentives to come not only in day after 
day, but decade after decade. 

Before taking this authentic job, I had 
lived with the premise that doing the 
things important to me was the highest 
priority. Raising my children with in- 
terest and love, writing stories and 
poems, were at the top of the list. 
Working for various social causes, lis- 
tening to music, making food and 
learning crafts, driving to the beach, or 
dancing came next. During one decade 
of my young adult life, I might have 
been called a hippie or a revolutionary. 
Now those words have other connota- 
tions, but the spirit that they represent- 

ed did allow me, and many thousands of 
others, to live simply with the important 
things at the top of the list. Livelihood 
was not slighted. It was simply not 

So I had lived. But worrying about 
money became incessant, and, at over 
35 years old, I set out to seek gainful, 

full-time employment. And for a time, 
even though I felt physically tortured by 
my new circumstainces, I was proud that 
I had made a decision and executed it. 
Relieved that I hadn't ruined my future 
with drugs or alcohol. Pleased that my 
good education was proof of my intelli- 
gence. Assured that I was capable of 



doing things that I didn't particularly 
like to do. And grateful that I could 
come out of the woodwork with a 
half-page resume and be given profes- 
sional duties and a bona fide salary. 
Now I could buy brand-new clothes for 
my children, donate money to worthy 
causes, and afford a vacation. I had 

joined up for the old-fashioned Ameri- 
can dream. 

Eventually, these satisfactions wore 
away. However, the physical ailments 
also started to ease, and the nightmares 
subsided. Instead, I was filled with a 
tremendous shame. I was not ashamed 
because the work I did was undervalued 

= Graphic by P.M. & Mart 

by the company and meaningless in the 
context of the rest of my life and most of 
the rest of the world. I was ashamed of 
the society that considered me its fit and 
useful member, one of its own. 
Ashamed that anyone, no matter how 
harmful their work might be, was 
respectable by these standards if only 
they committed themselves to a job, and 
that the unemployed were to be pitied 
above all others. Not that I proposed 
that we should live without work— just 
that working should be so entirely 
disconnected from our lives struck me as 
dismal. This conclusion was not merely 
theoretical. It was drawn from first- 
hand experience. 

In our division, the computer pro- 
grammers, systems experts, and other 
technical staff, myself included, were 
non-union. Our building was some 
distance from any of the hospitals. 
However, when several thousand union 
workers in the hospitals went out on 
strike, the non-union workers were 
expected, in fact obliged, to cross the 
picket lines around the hospitals and get 
the job done. At the time, I was cissigned 
an emergency project that exempted me 
from hospital duty. My boss knew I 
would be relieved, but I was already 
sickened. Or rather, as I said before, 
ashamed that the quality of people's lives 
should be a bargaining chip, one that 
these strikers would eventuzdly lose. 

The first week of the strike, I handed 
in my resignation. I had found imother 
job. I would be a few miles from hoine, 
with my own office, two windows, 
flexible hours, in a small computer 
software company. Although the de- 
mands of the new job were more 
strenuous, the deadlines more serious, 
the atmosphere was friendly and imbur- 
eaucratic. Admittedly, I wasn't doing 
work I loved or even thought meaning- 
ful, but I had found a tolerable situa- 

Except for me, no one at the old job 
has left. It's been too risky to trade in 
security for the unknown, even though 
they all complain that they hate the 
place. My memories have faded. I have 
other business that fills my day, but my 
twelve-month taste of what this country 
serves most of its citizens leaves a 
permzinent sympathy for my co-workers 
everywhere. They wear stockings or ties 
and hold college degrees, but they 
experience the monotony of assembly 
line work. The white-collar class is a 
disguised serfdom. And I can't put it 
entirely behind me. Someday I may be 
forced to go back. 

^^ by Summer Brenner 



"Yep. them things growing around the inside tip 
of my dick sure look funny!" I said to myself, about 
seven years ago. 

. the "heaiu^ --* 
And so began a voy-S ^^^^^ -ith a^ ,,,^ 

hiT-hour subway ^^^^^.pnced {f\ ^.^s." 
"^ ! 1 ^ to see a I ^ . gaid, "" ^plieved 

*'* Ml should go ^«,\"d-polVP^' -PoWP'" 
*^', Tnd looted «"P»fo,gro«*s 

hotne a 
Nvas just a 


Then I called a friend 
hospital. She told me her 
provide free outpatient care 
one to turn down freebies, 
After hours spent applyinj 
(weeks hence again) to see ; 
WARTS" Yikes! Another 
(more weeks) to see the i 
warts, "and who then mad 
more weeks hence) for c 
electrode up (down?) your 

except he hospital near my home told me Fd have 

Lt^TheT.^ r'" '""^'S^^^y ^^om appointment 
The $50 fee was curable via fake I.D and 

made an outpatient clinic appointment for me for 
three weeks hence. I waited three weeks for a 
urologist to say 'Hmm, polyps," and th^ rru^ke anoih^ 
appointment for rne! I told the clerk "Bill me" and split 

L ^" f^e end /';/ 
''-"S'O^..,,^;^ -on Of „03e w£';> ,'^^^ 

by Bob McGlynn 

r^Ae^d there Cured, but pissed. 
Well, the caper ended there. ^^^^ ^^ ^ 

For a relatively -^P^^J^/^re^pensw mcom- 
months-long "^^^.'^"g^; ^^^"^^ss is stuck with literal 
petence. The v-t- ^^^^^^^^^ .p the time I've 

unpaid labor. I cant ^^S ^^ice to place, 

spent on the phone, ^f^^l^^^ ^nc Jor rm. The 
doing things that should have bee ^^ J^ ^^^ ^^ 

stniggle against health ^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^ 

anti-work struggle, as cap ^^ ^^ p^^^ 

work as little as possible and has 
up its slack. 

^antmg that humiliation . J , ^'°"' '^^^^^ Not 
handed the anesthe fa b/l] ^ "^'^ ^^^^'"? being 
quick! ^"^ '''"' J snuck out of there 

. O" the operati 
^'"^^ ^'th the ane 
begins to poke arc 

Remember me, the 

This person, who was aboii 
me, didn't know who the 
explaining to him that "I thin) 
then I went under. 


t)oc poked 
^350, 1 had a p 


worked in another 
al had a grant to 
iverty cases. Never 
over immediately. 
3t an appointment 
»r who said "Hmm, 
ntment was made 
jt, who said "Yup, 
appointment (a few 
ing — they stick an 
and burn the warts 

AH' I was cured! I could go back to my evil ways 
without fear of spreading plague! 


.ook a couple of weeks Jort^^ 

. that I took a close look^^^ fools left one 

..u\r.a was cool. ^'^^^• 

After that 1 tooK .^ 

everything was cool. 

Inland abig one, too!' 

. fmallv a thought) get it 
to tinaiiy I, Luckily, 

over «^*- •'-;:; -;:ranTno. asUed ^r up 

real fast 

your anesthesia Ml now, 



?« ro«n 


e ouisde of r^ T P- We 

jin operating on 
I was. I tried 
art is gone," but 

'^^ ^skcd "R^r '''- • 

Q L 

^-'•tam s'u'pposuol^' 7^^..^' ''ecommended a 
^P^"d my life u^cured J'^^>:- ^ "^^ doomed to 
between one ^.cCdto^^T' '^^^ ^^ ^nh 
few days going from nh "^ ^"°^^^'-- ^ spent a 

"«--e couJd UTsuchTT' ^° P^— y but 
^ga'n to the uroJo.,st i '^'"^ ^"PP^^'tory.^Back 

two weeks anH „^ '^ ^ ^ 'P (what fun') «n^ ;, r 

grandmother's urologtst (smce he ^^.^ ^.^ 

L'd luwe to be ™s|worthy> 1 «^^ ^_^^ ^^^„, j 
Mom. Unf°™"'"ft m eames, so there went fifty 
couldn't play 7,^^^^°^S:,t How 'bout another 
""^"^ "'" rid"srcks, why not. I've got t,me to 
r-CcU only had to waitafew days. 

The night before the nr. 

nnaJJy have worked! I reaJK. . ,V^ ^^^^"^ '"'ght 
/ But I figured pJay u safe, gefthe ^ni ' ''' ^^^ ^^ 
/ '^^^^^ operation anyway. 




■"dfy saF- ^^'■°'-e 



name adw ^ '^- ^^ 
- ' ^^dr^sB, and 
^ couid 


■er the 
so on. 



; c^ 

Graphic by Louii Michaelion 
Dciign by Pauline Paella 


In the beginning, as with 
most such diseases, 
there were only scattered, 
anecdotal reports. I recall 
seeing one in the Annals and 
another in the Journal of Ap- 
plied Medicine. Each described 
a young and otherwise healthy 
patient whose life force grad- 
ually and for no apparent 
reason began to weaken. On the 
surface nothing appeared different, 
and yet beneath there was a steady 
and unequivocal recession of vita- 
lity. The beat of the heart became 
more distant, the brain waves flat- 
ter, the neuromuscular potentials 
less distinct. It was as though a 
blanket had been placed around 
these patients, dampening their 
vital signs. One investigator likened 
it to a shell (Parkinson: personal 
communication) which over time 
grew in thickness to envelope what- 
ever living material was left inside. 
Some called the shell prison; others, 
protection. These were the meta- 
phors of our ignorance. 

The early reports emphasized the 
extreme lassitude and inzinition with 
which these patients were afflicted. 
Initially, they were thought to be in- 
capable of performing the simplest tasks 
of daily life, but later, it was found that 
they were merely uninterested. Such 
matters as speaking, dressing and 
washing seemed beyond their aware- 
ness or concern. It was felt by some 
that they were suffering from a deep 
depression or some other severe psy- 
chological aberration, but this view was 
discounted by extensive psychiatric 
evzJuation, the results of which were 
entirely normal. They were not men- 
tally ill, it was clear. And yet there was 
something that made them different, 
that progressively encased their spirits 
and caused them to recede further and 
further from humanity. 

It has since become apparent that 
many others — thousands, millions — 

are affected. In most, the blunting of 
life force remains at an early stage. 
With effort they are capable of carrying 
on the routine demands of life. It is 
true that relationships have tended to 
suffer, and the birth rate has dropped 
precipitously. But so, also, has the 
crime rate, as these people have become 
less motivated to interact in any way 
— violent or otherwise — with others. 

Surprisingly, the vast majority of 
these lesser advanced cases remain 
quite able to work. Their jobs (data 
entry, information retrieval, assembly, 
technoservice) are perfectly suited to 
their condition. Indeed, it has recendy 
been suggested that these patients' lack 
of motivation is somehow causally re- 
lated to the boredom inherent in their 
work. Provocative as this argument 
appears, it has yet to be substantiated. 
Statistical zmalyses are pending. 

As a physician, I have been both 
disturbed and intrigued by this new 
illness. Like many others I have given 
thought to its origin and cause. When a 
thing is unknown, theories abound, and 
up until recendy my own were no less 
imaginative than others. But three days 
ago I made a startling discovery. 

It was occasioned, as is so much in 
the life of a doctor, by the visit of a 
patient. She did not come on her own, 
but was brought by one of her co- 
workers, who had noted a progressive 
change in her behavior over the past 
several months. Whereas before she 
had been lively and vivacious, now she 
seemed, in her friend's words, blunted. 

"Like she doesn't care," she said. "Or 
doesn't care to caire." 

I nodded thoughtfully and turned to 
the patient. She was young and had all 
the physical attributes that pass for 
beauty. And yet, as I looked at her, I 
could not help but think that this was a 
person who had been sucked dry of life. 
Her face was flat, her eyes duU, her hair 
drab and lusterless. VVhen I spoke to 
her, she answered in a voice so weak 
that I thought she might have a disease 
of the larynx. Her words were mufOed, 
her sentences short and barely inteUigi- 
ble. I found myself having to strain not 
merely to hear but to understand. 

During the interview I recorded our 
words direcdy into the PC I kept on my 
desk. Once or twice she turned in its 
direction, stirred, it seemed, by the 

faint clicking of the keys. It occurred to 
me that they might hold for her some 
mejming, but if they did, it was one that 
did not penetrate very deeply, for in a 
few moments the pasty and indifferent 
look returned to her face. Partway 
through the history I replaced the 
ontologic disc with a fresh one, care- 
lessly leaving the filled O-disc on the 
desktop. When I had finished, I asked 
her to have a seat on the examining 
table. I had to repeat the request a 
second time before she stood up. She 
crossed the room mutely, her move- 
ment, like her facial expression, spare 
and detached. There seemed to be a 
palpable disassembling between inner 
and outer life. 

As I expected, the examination was 
unremarkable. The only positive find- 
ing, hardly one of note, was a small 
bald patch of skin on the scalp. It was 
partially obscured by her greasy hair, 
and I parted the strands to look closer. 
Covering the pale spot was a fine sUvery 
scale. It seemed nothing more than a 
mild dermatitis, but my habits are such 
that I routinely took a scraping. As I 
was leaving the room to examine it 
under the microscope, I clumsily 
caught my foot in a fray of the carpet. 
The glass slide slipped from my hand, 
spilling skin and solvent on the O-disc I 
had left on the desk. I swore under my 
breath and wiped the disc clean, hoping 
its valuable data had not been dam- 
aged. I took another scraping, being 
more careful this time. 

The bald patch turned out to be what 
I thought it was, and I prescribed an 
anti-inflammatory cream. I gave my 
instructions and asked if she under- 
stood. Ever so slowly she turned her 
head, gazing at me as though from a 
tremendous distance. I had the odd 
sensation of seeing her through many 
layers of hazy glass. It was an unset- 
tling experience. At length, unable to 
arouse her further, I called her friend 
in. She asked what I had found. When 
I told her, she sighed. 

"I was hoping it was something else." 

I nodded. Simple depression, even a 
brain tumor seemed preferable. 

"Don't you have something to give 
her. Doctor? Anything..." 

"I'm sorry. We have no treatment for 
this. We don't even know the cause." 

"Then I just have to wait?" She was 



angry. "And watch while she fades?" 

"Don't lose hope," I said lamely. "No 
one knows what the future might 

She led her friend, who seemed both 
unconcerned and uninvolved, out, and 
I was left to my own thoughts. They 
were angry too, frustrated and sad. A 
disease that struck indiscriminately, for 
which we knew neither cause nor treat- 
ment: it was enough to make a man 

Fortunately, she was my last patient 
of the day. I had no great desire to see 
others. As I prepared to leave, I 
noticed the O-disc on the desk. It was 
still somewhat moist, and in an act 
more of desperation than inspiration I 
put it in the office incubator in the 
hopes that it might dry overnight. 
Then I went home. 

The next morning I took it out and 
put it in the PC's drive. When I booted 
the computer, nothing happened, and I 
cursed myself for not having made a 
backup copy. In the middle of trying to 
get something — anything — to appear 
on the screen, I was called away to the 
hospital. One of my older patients, an 
alcoholic, had swallowed a boxful of 
alcohol swabs. It was more than an 
hour before I got back to the office, and 
I hurried into my white coat to begin 
seeing patients. Then I caught sight of 
the computer screen. 

It was full of writing, most of it 
complex program commands and 
equations. The lines were scrolling up 
and off the screen at a rapid rate. I 
somehow managed to get the printer 
working, and I tore off the first page 
when it was completed. It was covered 
with formulae, which I recognized (af- 
ter considerable scrutiny) to be the 
mathematical descriptions of biological 
phenomena. I understood only the 
rudiments, but here, in numerical 
symbology was hormonal secretion, 
blood flow through the heart, neuronal 
activity, ion fluxes across membranes. 
This was information that had been 
under study for decades in laboratories 
throughout the world. As far as I could 
tell, what I held in my hand represented 
the most sophisticated and accurate 
descriptions of such processes yet. 

How had they entered my pitiful little 
desktop computer? I thought immedi- 
ately of the disc but was reluctant to 
remove it for fear that I would be 
unable to retrieve its information. So 
instead, I let it run, watching in awe as 
the secret equations of the human body 
scrolled endlessly up the screen. 

I didn't want to miss anything, but by 
then my waiting room was full of 


patients. Begrudgingly I saw them, 
using another room so that I could 
hurry back between visits to see what 
new data had appeared. It seemed 
inexhaustible, and when lunchtime 
came I called out for a sandwich in 
order to remain with my machine. Just 
as I took the first bite, the scrolling 
stopped. I caught my breath. A 
moment later words appeared on the 

* I'm here. I'm not dead. * 
I stared, afraid to chew. 

* I'm alive. My name is Susan 
Kunitz. I'm twenty-four. My parents 
live in Milwaukee, and I have a brother 
in the Navy. I don't understand what is 
happening. Why does everyone seem 
so far away? * 

I said something out loud, swallowed 
the bite of sandwich and repeated it. 

* Try to communicate. * 
I spoke again. 

* Try harder. * 

Then I understood. I typed my 
name on the keyboard. I told her I was 
a doctor. I asked questions. 

She knew everything there seemed to 
know about Susan Kunitz, sharing 
intimate memories as well as deep felt 
emotions. What she described had far 
more detail and texture that I could 
ever have put on the disc myself And 
yet when it came to the source of this 
knowledge, its nature and location, she 
had no understanding at all. 

Nor did I, though it occurred to me 
that there must be some connection 
with her disease. At length I suggested 
we terminate our interaction. I was 
growing tired, but also I wanted to 
check the disc. She agreed with little 
hesitation. This surprised me, for I 
would have expected her to be con- 
cerned, as I was, that something might 
happen to the disc. I realize now that 
on some level she probably knew that it 
was only a replica of her true self 

After taking care to copy its contents, 
I gingerly removed the O-disc from its 
slot. I held it to the light. It looked no 

different than others I had seen, but 
under the microscope I saw what the 
naked eye could not. A thin layer of 
cells covered the disc. I recalled my 
spill the day before. A thought oc- 
curred to me. With growing excite- 
ment I rushed across the street to the 
hospital's electron microscopy lab. 

Two hours later I had it. In the 
nucleus of each cell lay the tiny metallic 
particles of the disc. They had inserted 
themselves into the chromosomal ma- 
terial, not in some random array but in 
clear-cut patterns. In each cell it was 
the same: bits of computer memory 
linked to strands of DNA, hardware to 
software, machine life to human. 

Over the next few days I called in 
others with Susan Kunitz's disease, and 
in each the results were the same. Bits 
of computer memory studded their 
DNA. A shell of information, of 
bioelectromagnetic data surrounded the 
soft core of their being, and their body 
processes scrolled graphically before my 
eyes. They were like snails, I thought, 
bizarre, mutant snails without even a 
hole through which to poke their heads. 

I pitied them enormously, until it 
occurred to me that perhaps such pity 
was premature. Maybe these shell 
people, melding as they did computer 
life to human, represented a new stage 
of man. On the surface they seemed so 
miserable and inept, but perhaps this 
was only the biased view of a lesser form 
of life. Perhaps it is we and not they 
who suffer, we who sit in the shadow of 
their evolution. It was an unnerving 
thought: we now are the chimps of the 
planet. I am not sure that it is true, but 
neither am I sure that it is not. A part 
of me, a frightened and courageous 
part, hopes to find out. 

by Michael Blumlein |^S5 

Michael Blumlein is a physician. His novel, The 
Mountain of Mountains, was released in A ug- 
ustjrom St. Martin's Press. 

Blood, Sweat & Soap 

f he hospital is a vast laby- 
rinth of bright linoleum 
and enameled tunnels. Peo- 
ple seem to wander about 
aimlessly, carrying linens, 
pushing strange apparatuses 
of gleaming metal, pushing 
wheelchairs. Patients in ill- 
fitting green gowns shuffle 


around, glum and bored. At 
the far end of a long corridor 
is the sign, with an arrow 
pointing downwards: LAUNDRY 
ROOM. At the bottom of the 
stairs, the hall gets narrower. I go 
through two big swinging green 
doors that say EMPLOYEES 
ONLY. At the end of this corri- 
dor is a big black door with a small- 
er door cut into it, emanating a 
low roar of machinery. I walk through 
the door and am pounced upon by my 
new supervisor, Mr. Crumley. Crumley 
is wearing a white shirt and tie and is 
sweating profusely in the room's heat. 
Strange machines are clanking and 
whooshing. A mad pace of activity fills 
the air. Crumley wastes no time. "Fine, 
glad you made it. You'll be separating." 

aotavMS Hf M '?H«J«^ 


"Separating?" I ask myself, as soon as 
Crumley is out of earshot. I follow him 
around a big machine where women are 
placing bright white sheets on long 
conveyor belts, paist a row of enormous 
industrial dryers, and into a comer 
where three other young men are pulling 
linens out of a large roUaround canvas 

'Here's your man, train him well," 
says Crumley, and disappears. The 
skinny blonde-haired one instructs me. 

"Grab an article, shaike it out and 
throw it into the right bin." He points to 
four bins parked against the wall. "That 
one's Sheets, that one's OR, that one's 
Other White Linens, and that one's 
Gowns. Crot it?" 

"Yeah, sure." 

I lean over and stare into the bin. A 
strange, unidentifiable odor aissaults my 
nostrils. The others are jamming their 
hands in and pulling things out without 
hesitation; but I want a few minutes to 
check out what's in that bin. I gingerly 
pull out a patient gown — thin green 
cotton — and throw it unceremoniously 
into the Gowns bin. Hmmm, what's 
next? I come up with a pair of white 
cotton drawstring pants. "Where does 
this go?" 

"Other White Linens." 

Now I pull up a long white sheet. Into 
the Sheet bin it goes. This isn't so bad, 
the bin's almost empty. 

The skinny blonde kid walks towards 
the back wall, where there Eire about 
thirty stuffed-full drawstring cotton 
sacks — stuffed full, presumably, of dirty 
laundry. He drags a few back over and 
dumps them into a bin. "Fill 'er up," he 

I pick up my pace a litde, get into the 
swing, sheets here, towels there, gowns 
in the other one. Very quickly, I learn to 
grab with my eyes as well as my fmgers. 
Avoid the excrement on the gowns, the 
vomit on the towels. There's some pretty 
funky stuff in here. I pull up a green, stiff 
square of cotton material, four feet by 

"What's this?" I naively ask. 

"Operating room sheet." 

The skinny blonde kid is Jack, the 
Black guy is Tony, the short dark-haired 
one is Scott. Jack has seniority, he's been 
there two months. Tony's been there one 
month, Scott one day. I don't feel like 
such an intruder; these are not oldtimers 


I go with Jack to get more sacks for the 
bin. Dump it in and sort some more. Fm 
really flying now. I pluck up a dark green 
OR sheet and hurl it into the OR bin. 
There's another one all bunched up. I 
grab an end and shake it out. A sickening 
mass of deep red, bloody ooze sloshes all 
over the gown in the bin and over Scott's 

"STAINS, STAINS!" scream Jack 
and Tony, doing a litde dance around 
the bin. Scott and I recoil in disgust. 
Matted hair protrudes fron the slimy ball 
of bloody matter in the bin. Jack runs 
over with a stick, still yelling, "STAINS, 
STAINS!" He pokes at die bloody sheet, 
picks it up, and flings it into the comer of 
the room. It slaps the wall and slides 
down onto a dried-out pile of more 
bloody green OR sheets. 

"That's the Stains pile," says Jack, his 
face slightly flushed. "We don't touch 
that stuff." 

"That shit's too messed up," adds 
Tony. "Let them worry about that stuff." 
Jack picks up some other bloody 
gowns and sheets and tosses them into 
the Stains pile. My stomach is queasy. I 
pick things up by the tips of two fingers, 
looking carefully for any other surprises. 

It's break time and us separators go 
our separate ways. I grab a cup of coffee 
from the vending machine and stroll 
airound the hospital. When I get back, 
there are just three of us. We start 
separating again. About a half hour goes 
by and Scott is nowhere to be seen. 

"What happened to the other guy?" I 

"Probably quit, like most people. We 
get some that don't even make it through 
one whole day." 

We keep on sorting away, not talking 
much. The pile of laundry bags gets 
smadler and smaller. The CLANK 
CLANK CLANK of the folding ma- 
chine in the other area is getting on my 
nerves. The WHOOSH of the huge 
dryers drowns out my thoughts as morn- 
ing edges towards noon. Those dryers 
put out a lot of heat, too, and we're 
burning up. Tony switches on a ceiling 
fan; the breeze helps a little. I come 
across some new clothes. 

"What's this?," I ask, pulling out some 
stiff white jackets. 

"All right!" say Jack and Tony, as they 
come around to my side and go through 
the pockets of the jacket. Tony pulls out 
a handful of coins. 
"Eighty-five cents!" 

"Doctors' jackets," explains Jack. 
"There's always change in the f)ockets. 
They must buy stuff from the machines 
and then just dump the jackets in the 
chute without checking." 

Tony puts the 
money in a white 
styrofoam cup on a ledge. 

"We divide up the money at 
afternoon break," he says. 

This is the way to keep your mind off 
work— look for doctors' jackets. We get a 
couple more by lunch time and have over 
two doUars already. 

I have a milkshake for lunch, basking 
in the sun on the lawn outside the main 
hospital doors. 

Walking back down to the laundry 
room is like entering a furnace; the hot, 
arid air from the dryers hits you in the 
face. The contents of the bins look 
increasingly unappetizing after fresh air 
and sunshine. What diseases are lurking 
in all this shit and piss and vomit, not to 
mention blood and body parts? The 
sweat trickles down my forehead. No 
more doctors' jackets. At least the laun- 
dry bag pile is almost gone now. Could 
that mean breaktime or other work? I 
drag over the remaining bags, dump 
them in the bin, and we go through them 
in about twenty minutes. 

"Whew!" I exclaim, "What now?" 

"Now for the really shitty work," Jack 
replies disgustedly. 

I foUow him to a door next to where 
the pile of laundry bags had been. 
Beyond the door is a solid wall of laundry 
bags. He tugs at the wall, aind dozens of 
the dingy cotton bags slide onto the floor. 
In the dark litde room beyond, I czm see 
an enormous aluminum conduit chute 
slanting down from the ceiling. 

"This is where the laundry chutes from 
the whole hospital wind up. The stuff we 
worked on today was fresh laundry from 
yesterday because the laundry room was 
backed up. Now we can work on our 
backlog." He starts dragging bags over to 
the bin. My heart sinks. 

"Trouble with this stuff is," Tony says, 
"it's been sitting here a long time. It's 
sure to be really ripe, especially with this 

He dumps out the first bag. A sicken- 
ing stench of curdled blood and body 
waste rises from the mound of laundry. 

"Oh Christ." 

We stand back, letting the fan blow 
away some of the worst odors. We are 
sorting a lot slower now. At afternoon 
break we take the styrofoam cup of 
money into the vending machine room, 
where we split the loot and buy Cokes. 

By the end of 
the day, my stomach is 
terminally ill. I leave the hospital 
gasping for fresh air. 

The next day's a scorcher. I'm sweat- 
ing profusely at seven in the morning on 
my way to work. By first break, the 
laundry room thermometer reads 110 
degrees. There's a new pile of bags by the 
door again, fresh laundry that wouldn't 
fit in the chute room. We do that 
relatively fresh laundry first, before 
again getting to work on the backlog. 
The backed-up laundry is even worse 
today, literally cooking in the heat. We 
hit another sickening pile of Stains, a 
mass of curdling blood with some un- 
identifiable body parts, bits of fat and 
hair. WHAP! It goes onto the ever-rising 
pile of Stains, which nobody had re- 
moved since yesterday. 

A little after morning break, a new 
guy comes in from the temporary agen- 
cy, an older man smelling of alcohol. 
After fifteen minutes, he goes to the 
bathroom and never came back. But 
Jack and Tony and I are going to tough 
it out. We start showing off, poking into 
the Stains pile with the stick, trying to 
identify things. Jack finds a piece of 
cartilage that he thinks looks like a letter 


"Hey, look at this, I oughta wear it 

around my neck, what a find!" 

"Looks like a calcium deposit if you 
ask me," Tony says. "Put that thing 
down. That's disgusting." 

"No, really man, I'm gonna keep it." 
He slips it into his pocket. 

Tony dives after a doctors' jacket. 
"Hey, great-OUCH! OH SHIT!" He 
holds out his finger and looks at it with 



concern. "Damn needle... Fucking doc- 
tors..." Carefully, he extracts an uncov- 
ered hypodermic needle from the doctor 
jacket pocket. "They're supposed to cover 
these things up cind throw them in a 
separate box, but they always forget. 
You gotta be careful about that." The 
jacket doesn't even have any money in it. 

At lunch time, the lawn in front of the 
hospital is covered with people sunning 
themselves; but I want to escape the 
heat. We sit under a tree and eat ice 
cream cones for lunch. When we get 
back to the laundry, the thermometer on 
the wall reads 117 degrees. The ceiling 
fan just throws back the hottest air in the 
room, so we shut it off. We soak our 
t-shirts in the water fountain to keep us a 
little cool. By now we're actUcJly making 
a dent in the backed-up laundry. There's 
probably enough room for the next day's 
laundry to come flying down into it. 

The next day, as I take up my position 
at the sorting bin, the supervisor comes 
over to tell me that a laundry folder 
didn't show up and that he'll need me to 
fold laundry. Jack and Tony are snicker- 
ing a little, probably because the laundry 
folders are all women. 

The supervisor brings me over and 
introduces me to Helen, an older woman 
in a pale blue apron and blue plastic 
hairnet. We stand in front of a bizarre 
contraption about ten feet wide and 
thirty feet long, a mass of whirling 
canvas strips and belts and loops, clang- 
ing metal arms and rollers. All I have to 
do is pick up a clean towel or sheet and 
feed it into the machine, which whisks it 
away clenched between rollers and 
smooths, flattens, presses, and folds it. 
Amazing. The first towel I send through 
is rejected, however, because I forget to 
snap it. 

Helen shows me how. She grabs the 
towel by the end comers and snaps it so 
haird that it cracks like a bullwhip and 
fluff flies off the other end. It takes me 
many attemps to get that action down. 

At first I am tremendously relieved to 
be off sepzirating, especially in this 
heat — though I feel a little guilty about 
not suffering with my comrades. In 
about ten minutes, though, my arms are 
tired from so much snapping and feeding 
items to the hungry machine. A few 
minutes after that, I come to the horrible 
realization that this job does not permit 
one to put one's arms down, not even for 
a second. The receivers at the other end 
need a steady stream of pressed laundry 
and complain if it doesn't come fast 
enough. They're paid bonuses on piece 
rate. Gk)d, how I want to let my arms 
sink to my sides for one minute or even 
ten seconds! By the end of the day, I'm 

anxious to get back to sorting— blood, 
guts and all. 

Luckily, the next day I get my wish. 
But I always pause to look at those 
women's arms when I walk by. 

The heat wave lasts about ten days. 
The laundry cooks, the blood curdles, 
the Stains pile mounts towards the 
sky — and one day mysteriously disap- 
pears without a trace. We start a new pile 
with a fresh blob of bloody tissue from 
some recent — hopefully successful — 
operation. Jack gets stuck several more 
times with syringes, and we pull in 
enough money from doctors' jackets to 
buy our afternoon snacks. 

The heat wave fades away. Fall comes, 
the months drone by. One day, I am 
offered a dishwashing job in a restau- 
rant. I jump at the chance of steady work 
in such a reputable occupation, and give 
my one week's notice without regrets. 

Some weeks later I'm scrubbing out 
the grease traps from the grill and 
listening to the news. Freddy the cook is 
out unloading slabs of cheese for his 
cheddarburgers. Nothing much happen- 
ing in the news that day, except for the 
last story. The entire state has run out of 
gamma globulin and is appeailing to the 
federal government for extra supplies. A 
terrible statewide epidemic of hepatitis 
has been traced to the laundry workers at 
the hospital where I used to work. 
Apparently, every single hospital laun- 
dry worker contracted hepatitis and 
spread it to family and friends. Fortun- 
ately for me, my eyes don't show a trace 
of jaundice; that's one souvenir I didn't 
carry away from the sorting bin. But I 
still always snap my towel when Fm at 
the laundromat. 

^^ by Jay Qemens 





are having pinker babies 
montage of blue-green eyes \ 
the splice of life 
genetic hegemony 

unconscious and correctly 
proletariat but what 

the hell my menses 
are meandering 
history dribbled down 

my thighs Tve # 

added to the pool: 

gene, car, swimming 
like those funny drawings 
of sperm we watched on film 
in gym class before 

The Sexual Revolution 
1 won my purple heart 
stains on nylon panties 
don't ask 
1 gave at the office 
1 gave in the back seat 
at the drive-in 
I gave in a sleeping bag 
at Stinson Beach 
I gave in most of the 

Western States 
and Canada, too 
I looked for pot 
under a neon rainbow 
1 found community propjerty 

and a final decree 
but my pink daughters 
will splash red 
let the nation's 
labor rooms resound 

by Carol Tarlen 

on your last day 


on your last day at the office i saw you wash your face 

of the last four years of hassles 

brown makeup strained suntan • 

down some drain in a women's room 

they wouldn't let me into • 

you came out younger 

as the girl almost a baby i once fell in love with 

your face glowing a woman's glow 

the rest of the office looked dusty 
your manager dead to you as a paleolithic god 
stood pot-bellied trying not to breathe in your presence 
patting his pjencil into his hand like a tom-tom 
from inside this death museum i could see outside 
bright where you would be next week 
away from these reptillian caverns 
my skin scaling green in envy 

4|P0 by Dale Jensen 

• • « 



' 41- 




^, Parking Lot, Ford Sterling Plant 

Empty pallets stacked against the fence, 
a few cars scattered across the blacktop, 
a barren landscape decaying under grey sky. 

167da\;s since the last work-loss accident 
This lot under closed-circuit surveillance 
Authorized personnel onl\^ 

An empty bag blown flush against the fence. 
A set of keys in the middle of an aisle. 
A flattened oil can, a lottery ticket, 
a paperback with no cover. 

There's a man in this picture. 
No one can find him. 



by Jim Daniels 

• • ^* 


You invite your parents over 
because your mother can't do 
turkeys anymore. 

Your mother asks you 

if you're still at Ford's 

three times in ten minutes. ^ 

Your father talks on and on 

about the football game on tv. w 

Your son hides in his room. 

During dinner your mother repeats 

"everything is so delicious, 

so delicious," over and over. 

You're hungover 

and barely touch your plate. 

They leave after pie 

to get home by dark. 

As your mother steps out the door 

"everything is so delicious" 

she falls and breaks an ankle. 

In the hospital waiting room • 

you think of your parents 

still living in the city 

though they've both been mugged. 

You want them to move to the suburbs 

but they refuse. 

The\^'re like tired flies, you think, 

they barel\,i move at all. 

Just waiting for someone to kill them. 

You try to think of something you could do. 

You think of putting them in a home. 
You remember as a child 
pulling the wings off of flies: 
so delicious, so delicious. 

by Jim Daniels 

Jim Daniels' poema tn this Issue are taken from his 

volume PLACES /EVERYONE from Univ. oj Wisconsin Press. Thanks! 


/ #'ve never liked the idea of health 
/ m insurance, perhaps because Tm told 
\^J I have to have it. People are shocked 
when I tell them I don't. Insurance is a 
product that we seem almost required to 
buy. It is a seller's market, but it wasn't 
always so. Not so long ago, peole were 
completely uninsured. Somehow they got 
along without it— you and I are living proof. 

Fve always thought that Fd get by all 
right if something happened to me. State 
and city will not let me die out in the 
street. I have the right to health care, 
even if Fm broke. I know this as a fact, 
but always wondered what would happen 
if... I wrote this article for those of you 
who share my curiosity. 

Sunday I was with my girlfriend, 
Olga, checking out the TV GUIDE and 
looking forward to a pleasant afternoon. 

'We should do something," she said. 
"It's such a beautiful day." 

"How about if we open the windows 7^ 

and smoke a joint?" I suggested. 

"Willie, you're disgusting! All you ever 
want to do is smoke and drink and watch 

"And screw," I added hopefully. 

"We are going to the beach," she told 
me. "You will thank me for it later." 

Four hours later we are coming home, 
down Fulton Street, next to the park. 
The beach was nice, Fm feeling good. 
The motorcycle's humming under me, 
its tank is full of gas, but Fm running out 
of luck. I don't see a small dog run into 
the street. The car in front of me is 
stopping faster than my motorcycle can. 
As Olga tightens her grip on me, I try to 
get around; there isn't time. For a 
moment I cannot believe that this is 

The impact doesn't knock me out. Fve 
landed on my ass and Olga's sprawled 
out on the street a couple of yards away. 
She looks at me in disbelief. She isn't 7^ 

hurt, but I am bleeding freely from the 
face cind my left leg. The motorcycle lies 
beside the car Fve hit. Slow traffic 
weaves its way around us. Assholes and 
voyeurs gather like vultures to gawk at 
us. They debate what should be done 
about the bike. 

"Shouldn't we move it?" someone asks. 
"It's leaking gas." She's got that right. 
About a gallon so far. 

"I don't think so." a man answers. "We 
should wait for the police." He'd rather 
see my bike bum up than move what 
might be evidence. 

I fmd that I can stand. I get the bike 
back up aind kick the fender strziight, 
then wheel it to the sidewalk. Olga helps 

"Willie, you okay?" she asks. 

"Don't know. My leg hurts pretty bad, 
but I can walk." 

I light a cigarette; my hands are 
shaking. Cops arrive before I fmish it. 



An Uni 

An ambulance pulls in behind them; I 
refuse it. 

"Are you sure?" one cop asks. 

"Yeah, I can make it on my own." 

He waves the ambulance away. "Well, 
you just saved yourself a hundred 
bucks," the cop informs me. 

Olga finds a cab. We pay six bucks to 
get to San Francisco General Hospital 
and people's medicine. It is October 31, 
3 p.m. Emergency is crowded. 

As I stand in line for my admission 
interview I see the wounded all around 
me. Winos, whites and blacks, a hobo 
with a back pack, some Chinese and 
Latinos. Quite a variety of people, but 
we have a lot in common: we are poor 
and uninsured, the rats and coyotes of 
the great society. 

It hurts to stand in line. My leg is 
throbbing, Fve begun to sweat. My face 
feels cold. A Chinese man's ahead of me. 
Very old, he must be eighty, can't speak 

English. They can't figure out what's 
wrong with him. A staff interpreter 
arrives and seems to imderstand a litde 
bit of what he's saying. 

Now a young guy, drunk, in his 
mid- twenties, comes up to the intake 
desk moaning, babbling, bleeding from 
the stomach. "Stabbed," he tells the 
woman at the desk, "Knife." 

"What's your name?" she asks. "Where 
do you live?" 


"What's your name?" she asks again. 
"We have to know." 

He starts to slump and braces himself 
with a bloody hand, leaving a red streak 
across the counter. "Umph," he mum- 
bles. I can smell his breath from here, 
behind him, cheap wine mixed with 
vomit. The intake lady backs away from 
him, not sure what's coming next. I 
wouldn't want her job. 

Fm starting to get dizzy, going into 

shock. A doctor comes by with a cast 
around his leg. He pushes a "T" rack in 
front of him, a plasma bag bounces 
merrily along with it. A tube coming 
from the bag is tied around his arm. 
Very weird, an injured doctor. Now I see 
a nurse with a Charlie Chaplin mustache 
and a bowler hat on top, her head. I 
think Fm crossing over to the Twilight 
Zone, but Olga sees it too. 

"It's Halloween," she tells me. 


At last they take the stabbing victim 
somewhere on a gumey, and the man 
from China goes off with a nurse dressed 
in a clown costume. I wonder what he's 
thinking, poor old man, alone. 

It's my turn to be questioned by the 
stem-faced intake lady. "Name?" she 
asks. I tell her. "Do you have insurance?" 

"No." She asks a few more questions, 
then it's over and I take my place among 
the others who are waiting. 



I n s u 

After an hour and forty minutes, 
someone calls my name. I go up to a 
window and receive a bright orange 
plastic I.D. card. Some time later, clown 
nurse comes by with an empty gumey, I 
climb on and say goodbye to Olga. 
There's no need for her to wait, I might 
be kept here overnight. The nurse wheels 
me away and into inner sanctums of 
Emergency to meet the intake person. As 
I strip, he asks me what has happened. 
"Motorcycle," I admit. 

"I thought so," he writes something 
down as I relate the incident, then looks 
me over. "You're going to need some 
stitches in your face. I think your leg is 
broken. Just wait here, a nurse will take 
you down to X-Ray." 

Tm left outside of one of the emergen- 
cy rooms. The stabbing victim is inside. 

"How big was the knife?" Two doctors 
question him. 


"Come on! We've got to know." 

He gestures with his hands, like some- 
one describing the size of a fish. 

"Six inches?" one doc asks the other. 

"Looks like." 

Clown nurse reappears and tzikes me 
down to X-Ray. "What happened?" she 


"It figures," she nods wisely. 

I don't answer. After I get pictures 
taiken, I am parked outside Emergency 
again to wait my turn to get fixed up. 
My knee is swelling like a pumpkin. Fm 
hurt worse than I had thought. My head 
aches. I am feeling loads of pain and 
fear. What's wrong with me? How bad? 
It's been three hours since the accident. 


The clown comes back, a urine bottle 
in her hand. She isn't very funny. "You 
can do it under the sheet," she tells me. 
"There's too much going on for anyone to 

It is indeed a busy hallway. A young 
black woman gets wheeled in. They park 
her just ahead of me. She's all dressed 
up — date, I guess, or party. Car wreck. 
She is bleeding from a lot of places, 
crying. Her attendants leave her. She, 
like me, lies waiting now, in this cold 
white hallway, very much alone. 

They finish with the stabbing victim. I 
am sure the woman will go next, but as 
they wheel him out, another gumey 
comes around the comer with two doc- 
tors and a nurse running alongside. A 
man's been shot and is very close to 
death. White uniforms appear from all 
directions, some bringing sparkling 
chrome equipment. 

It's going to be a while before I see a 
doctor. I decide to sneak a piss. As I 
begin to urinate the place falls silent. I 
hear someone say, "His heart has 
stopped." The car- wreck woman next to 
me is freaking out, she moans and flails 
her arms. Her hand slides down the 
white tile wall zind leaves a streak of 
blood. A cheer comes from inside the 
emergency room. They have restarted 
the man's heart. 

It's just like in the movies. Heroes, 
noble healers. S.F. General has a rep for 
having the best trauma center in the state 
— they get a lot of practice. I just hope 
they get to me before I croak. I've been 
here in this fucking hallway two hours 
now. Another hour goes by, and then, at 
last, they come for me. 

There are three doctors in the room. 
Or is it a doctor, an intem, and a resident? 
A doctor and two interns? Three interns 
and no doctor? Hard to keep it all 
together now. Someone is putting stitch- 
es in my face, I hope he's good at it. They 
practice on the poor, I hope this one's 
seen a lot of us. One of the other two 
begins to build a cast around my leg. 

"Come on," the one who seems to be in 
chairge admonishes my plzisterer, "We 
haven't got all day!" His words don't 
seem to help the situation. "Not like that, 
for Christ's sake! It goes this way. You 
are too damn slow." 

It's taken me five hours to get inside 
this room. I wish they would take their 
time £ind do it right. It's like a combat 
zone, like M*A*S*H on television, only 
not so funny. They are quickly finished; 
right or wrong, it's done. The doctors 
leave. The plaster dries £md I get off the 

"Here's your crutches," someone teUs 
me. Then he steps back to observe. 

"That looks all right. Take this, you're 
going to need it." He gives me a prescrip- 
tion for some pain pills. "Gk) that way," 
he points. 

I make it to the check-out desk. The 
woman I need to see is talking on the 
phone. "And so I told him I don't care 
what Jerry says. Fve never even thought 
about a thing like that. Czin you ima- 
gine?" She goes on and on. I stand there 
waiting, feeling blood run down my leg 
inside the cast. My leg is aching, hip to 
ankle, zind my face is hurting too. "Can 
you help me, please?" I venture. 

Now she looks at me as if I am some 
sort of scum that's floated to the surface 
of her private pool. How dare I interrupt 
her conversation? "In a minute," she 
replies. She ratdes on about her life as I 
begin to feel a surge of amger. 

Up to now Fve only felt defeat and 
shame; without money or insurance I am 
totally dependent on their mercy. I am 
powerless inside this place that I, as a 
member of the working class, have built 
and paid for. "Hey, miss! I really need 
some help. It hurts to stand here." 

She puts down the phone and looks at 
me with undisguised hostility. Grudg- 
ingly, she finds some papers, flops them 
down for me to sign, then looks at my 
prescription. "I can't fill this," she in- 
forms me. "Doctor has to put his number 
in this square." She's pointing to a blank 
space on my script. "You'll have to have 
him fill this in.' 

"I don't know where he is." 

"I don't either," she replies as she picks 
up the phone again. 

The hallway's looking longer than 
Route 101 and Fve got no idea what my 
doctor looks like, let alone where he 
might be. Well, fuck it. I will do without 
the pills. Just let me get back home to my 
own bed and sleep. "Do I keep all these 
papers?" Birdbrain doesn't answer, so I 
ask again, but she ignores me. 

I give up and hobble to the lobby. 

where I find another nurse. "Am I 
supposed to keep these papers?" 

"Oh, no sir. Didn't they take these 
from you inside? They should have. 
Here, Til take them for you." 

I thank her for her kindness. It is 10 
p.m. Fve been inside this place for seven 

There are several cabs outside. I 
stumble into one. The driver looks at me 
like Fm from outer space. Another 
fifteen minutes and Fm back at my place, 
looking in the bathroom mirror. I can 
see why the cab driver was freaked. Both 
eyes are black, my face is caked with 
blood and dirt. They just washed off the 
area they put the stitches in, no time for 
more. I wash myself and go to bed. I 
have survived. Fm going to be okay — I 

It didn't go like that. After one month 
of crutching, my right arm was para- 
lyzed. I had pinched a nerve that runs up 

through the armpit, because the crutches 
I was issued were too high. I couldn't 
move or feel my fingers, and I had to get 
a cast put on my vmst to keep it straight. 
The doctors seemed to think it was my 

"Fve never given out wrong-sized 
crutches to anyone in my entire career," 
one told me. 

In truth, I can't remember who it was 
that gave them to me. I think this guy was 
afraid Fd sue him. I would have if Fd had 
the time and energy. 

K**«4c**** ******* 


If you don't have insurance, I would 
recommend that you find out which 
hospitals in your area accept medically 
indigent patients. Pick one, then go and 
register, before you have an accident or 
sickness. If you go on a weekday it won't 
take a lot of time. They ask the standard 
questions: name, address, how much 
you make. If you're a part-time worker, 
like myself, then estimate a monthly 
wage. They don't check out the facts you 
give them. 

A discount factor will be put into your 
record according to the wages you re- 
port. A seven-hundred-dollar- a- month 
wage will get you a discount of approxi- 
mately sixty percent. You will be given a 
plastic card to carry, just like a credit 
card. That's essentially what you're do- 
ing, establishing a credit account with a 
hospital. The card can save you going 
through a lot of shit when you are hurt or 
sick and want help in a hurry. I hope you 
get one, and I hope you never have to 
use it. 

^1 by Willie the Rat 


1 U L B H A ,. 

It was a simple assignment, 
they said. Routine, they 
said. As if he'd been given 
anything challenging since 
he'd blown the Barnswell 
mission. An artist. What 
the hell kind of tally could 
an artist record? The whole 
case was self-evident. "Lazy, 
vain, and selfish," Orwell had 
said of writers, but the label 
fit artists as well. No elabo- 
rate deals to monitor, as there 
would be for a businessman. No 
murders or tortures. Artists were 
simple, helpless people, unable to 
effect the slightest change in their 
environment, mere observers, by- 
standers. What was the use of 
even bothering with them, unless 
it was to make the curve on some- 
one's graph look good? 

This one lived out on the avenues, 
where nothing ever happened. A char- 
ming, inactive wife, whose name proba- 
bly wasn't even on the rolls. A three- 
room apartment, the third room a studio 
where the entire treinsaction was to be 
conducted. He was wearing a beret when 
he opened the door, an unappealing 
anachronism that only emphasized for 
Lucid the abysmal irrelevance of the 

"My name is Lorenzo Lucid. I'm your 
e valuator." 

"Come in," the artist gestured with a 
grandiose, exaggerated motion. Lucid 
noticed the tiny carved painted hum- 
mingbird on his lapel. A meaningless 

"Are you Kent Berenson, 6809 Judah 
Street, San Francisco?" 

"I'm the man, not the street or the 
city." The artist smiled. Lucid did not. 

"I'm here for your annuid checkup. 
Are you prepared?" 

"As best I can be." 

"Is your wife at home?" 

"She had to take one of the finches to 
the vet. She'll be back later." 

"Never mind. She's not registered 
anyway, is she?" 


"Do you understand the purpose of 
this visit?", Lucid asked. It was a mere 
formality, like reading a prisoner his 

"I think so. 'He knows if you've been 
good or bad, so be good for goodness 
sakes'", the artist sang softly. Lucid was 
not amused. Obviously the man was 
going to be uncooperative. Never mind, 
he'd dealt with these wiseass creative 
types before. Threaten to cut off their 
allotment, that brings them around ev- 
ery time. 

"Did you ever wonder how this all got 
started?", the man asked him, a devious 
twinkle in his eyes. 

"I'll ask the questions, Berenson. But 
to answer that one, yes, Fve read the 
history of Moral Data m2my times. I 
have no problem with it, do you?" 

He watched the man carefully for 
signs of agitation, nervousness, deceit. 
Later, he would be able to replay the 
tape of their conversation, send it 
through voice stress analyzers; but as an 
experienced evaluator. Lucid prided 

Graphic by JR Swanson 

himself on being able to recognize the 
signals without the aid of machines. 

"Computers are only as good as the 
information fed to them." 

"That's right. 'Garbage in, garbage 
out', £is the old saying went, but the 
sophistication of the contemporary sys- 
tem precludes error. Let's get started. 
You have some things to show me in 
your studio?" 

"I do." With another sweeping wave 
of the land and an absurd unnecessary 
bow, the artist escorted Lucid into a 
messy, cluttered space smelling of damp 
clay and greasy paint rags. 

Stuffed animals, whole and in parts 
— horns, feet, fur, eyes, and skulls — 
lined one wall of the room. Lucid felt 
queasy, as if he were in a morgue. 

"I subsidize my art with some free- 
lance taxidermy. It's all on my tax form if 
you want to see it," Berenson said with a 
smirk. Lucid didn't like the mzm's atti- 
tude at all. 

"You might lose points there for 
cruelty to animals." 

"Oh no," he replied, "I only use dead 
animals. Someone else, many other 
people, are responsible for killing them. 
Once they are dead, I see no harm in 
restoring their shattered bodies for dis- 
play, and neither does the computer. I've 
researched the matter. It's a neutral 
occupation, taxidermist, and in any case 
Fm claissified as an artist by the machine, 
and that's a positive profession, morally 
that is," the zutist said smugly. 

"Positive but potentially negative, and 
in tuiy case, vapid, without real power." 

"My power comes from the viewing. 
Well, here, take a look." He lined up 
several recently completed pictures on 
easels and propped them up on counters 
for display. To Lucid, they were disgust- 
ing examples of decadent licentiousness 
and freedom run amok. He considered 
them weakwilled, these abstract, squig- 
gly forms and shapes — shifting light and 
shadows with no content, nothing dis- 
cernable or recognizable. 

"This is all you've done in the last 
year?" Lucid asked incredulously. 

"Not counting the hundreds of failures 
I've thrown away or painted over, yes. 
What do you think?" 

"Words fail me." Lucid didn't want to 
provoke the man. Later, in the privacy 


of his office, he could write the damning 

"No, come on," the obnoxious man 
W21S insisting, "Give me your opinion. 
Do you feel the pain in my work? The 
anguish? The repressed anger?" 

"Yes, I suppose so." Lucid forced 
himself to contemplate them again. No, 
they did nothing for him. They were 
mere blobs and splotches spoiling a 
neatly woven piece of stretched cloth. 

"How much do you think one of these 
would sell for?" the cirtist goaded him. 
"I have no idea." 
"Teike a guess." 
"Five hundred dollars." 
"Thank you, that's a compliment. 
Actually, though, any number you 
nzimed would have been okay, you know 
why? I haven't sold any this year." 
"Not a one." 

"So you're entirely dependent on the 
government dole?" 

"That and what litde my wife makes, 

"I suppose you'd like to keep those 
checks coming, wouldn't you?" 

"Yes. Fortunately, when your com- 
puter was prograimmed, it accommodat- 
ed for statistics which show that many 
artists achieve success posthumously; 
therefore, current sales are not consid- 
ered in the evaluation. You see, Fve 
looked up everything pertinent to myself 
in the files. You can still do diat, you 
know. After all, this is America." 

Lucid's dislike for the man grew by the 
minute. Who did he think he was, this 
bohemian, this fringe element, shoving 
pride of country in his face, or rather the 
leering catcall of libertinism under the 
guise and protection of patriotism? He 
wouldn't have it. 

"Let me see your voting sheet." It was 
a command, not a request. Records were 
kept, not on whom one voted for, but 
only how often, a shUl to ensure citizen 

"Fm sorry, I don't vote." 


"I haven't seen a good candidate since. 

say, Mahatma Gzmdhi. Now there was a 
man with principles." 

"Not voting?" Lucid's attention was 
suddenly aquiver. Here was a fresh game 
afoot. Not voting was tantamount to 
admitting that you were a moral deviant 
of some kind. There'd have to be a pile of 
good works on the other side of the 
ledger or he would have this insufferable 
ass by the throat. 

"What do you do instead?" 

"How do you mean?" 

Either the mzin was playing him for a 
fool or he was about to lose much more 
than just his allotment. 

"Fm talking about good deeds, certifi- 
able morally positive aspects of your life. 
Are you, for example, a Little League 
coach, or a community leader, a hospital 

"None of the above." 

"Are you a member of any of the 
Armed Forces Reserves, volunteer fire 
depzirtment, Red Cross, or Salvation 

"Fm a pziinter. I paint. Occasionally I 
stuff dead animals for money." 

"Mr. Berenson, I want you to under- 
stand the seriousness of what you're 
telling me. You're the very kind of 
person this whole system was set up to 
identify and rehabilitate or eliminate." 

"What kind of person is that?" 

"The ones who were freeloading, tak- 
ing advantage of all the good things 
society had to offer but not contributing 
anything in return." 

"You're wrong." 

"Fm wrong." 

"Yes. Fve studied the whole thing. I 
told you, all I have to do is paint. I can't 
be judged untU a suitable period after my 
death, and then what can you do to me? 
So you see, Mr. Lucid, Fm beyond your 

Later on, back at the office, Lucid 
logged on and analyzed the section of the 
Morzd Code pertaining to artists. It was 
exacdy as the bastard had said when he 
coldly ushered Lucid to the door, scorn- 
ful of his threats. 

The computer liked Mr. Berenson's 


work. The computer was a collector, and 
kept some of Berenson's paintings in the 
video interface for leisurely viewing in 
offpeak hours. Lucid accessed the written 
catalog listing that accompanied the two 



I BERENSON, KENT (1947- ) 

® American neo-Expressionist, primitif, 

® no art-school training. Known for bold 

% strokework, innovative use of once-lost 

® gessoing techniques. 
I 1. The Joyous Juggler, (1978) 

® aaylic on wood: Of this piece the artist 

§ has said: "The Sun-god does some 

® difficult tricks with the planets as 

I bdb. ' 

® 2. Uncaging the Animals, 

% (1982) fur, feather, and bone collage on 

% woolen weaving: "The effect is visceral. ' 

® Times critic Leonard Donne 


"WTio programmed that damn thing?" 
Lucid grumbled to himself, and snapped 
off the monitor. "The government should 
never have subcontracted it to a private 

Melinda Berenson returned from the 
veterinarian at four-thirty in the after- 
noon. She found her husband hard at 
work on a new canvas. He called her into 
the smoke-filled room excitedly. (He 
always smoked a pipe when his work was 
going well; Lucid would have hated it 
had he known.) 

"Look at this, my dear," he showed her 
proudly. "What do you think of it?" 

"It's wonderful. What do you call it?" 

"I'm going to tide it: Visit from the 

"Oh, was he here today?" 


"He didn't wzint to talk to me?" 


"Just as well." 

"Yes, if he knew all the things you 
were into, sweetheart, he'd have you 
arrested. Executed, probably." 

"The Moral Data computer is a sex- 

"Yes. How is Barnaby?" 

"A cold in his litde chest. I got some 
drops for it." 

With a colorful flourish the artist 
slashed at the waiting canvas. 

"Voila!" he said. 

^^A by Steve Billias 



Would You? 

Jhe job paid $6.50 an 
hour to push petunias at a 
"garden center" attached to 
a cheap carpet store on 
Bayshore Boulevard, a 
place called Floorcraft. 
Well at least it would get 
me out of the office and 
into the gardening busi- 
ness. Nurseries are good 
gossip centers: I would 
learn who's hiring, talk to 
people and make arrange- 
ments to work for them, 
develop my own business. 

OK, I'm interested. 

Well, there is one thing, I 
don't approve of it, but we're 
part of a larger operation, 
and the management re- 
quires it, I'm going to have 
to ask you to take a poly- 
graph test. 

Whooah. Creepout city. 
Yeah, I know. A lot of 
people have problems with it. 
They just ask questions about 
whether or not you've ever shop- 
lifted, whether you've stolen from 
an employer, whether you're on 
any hard drugs. I can tell you 
should have no problem with it. 

Fve always been fascinated by 
things like phone taps, bugs, surveil- 
lance data bases, but especially lie 
detectors — machines that circumvent 
fibbing, that lovely act that makes 
social life possible. I once did civil 
disobedience, not because I think it's a 
great tactic, but because I wanted to see 

what it's like inside a jail. Such forays 
are a way of confronting a power in a 
contained way, learning what it's 
about, shedding its secrecy, robbing 
its strength. Kind of like S and M! 
* ** 

Tuesday, June 16, 1987. Summer 
of Love in the Haight Ashbury twenty 
ye2irs later. The office was at 1781 
Haight Street near Stanyan. A hippy 
answered the door. He led me into a 
rzimbling, musty and worn railroad 
flat, a former crash pad. Now the place 
was strewn with used office furniture 
instead of Indian cotton bedspreads 
and streaks of flourescent orange 
glimmered underneath beige paint. 
Stopping in front of a battered nauga- 
hyde sofa in the hall, the hippy 
stopped and told me the "interviewer" 
would be just a few minutes late but 
that I could just have a seat and look 
through those magazines, pointing at 
a tiny formica etagere. No thanks. I 
chose to study the details of a "decor- 
ator painting" of Venice, harvest gold 
dome of St. Marks, avocado green 
gondolas. Fifteen minutes later, hav- 
ing permanendy corrupted my visuad 
memory of Venice, I broke down and 
looked through the bookcase. Sure 
enough, underneath pUes of Readers 
Digest and TWA flight magazines was 
a copy of Acid Dreams: LSD, the CIA, and 
the Sixties Rebellion. Piss and love. 

I listened to the guy talk to a prospec- 
tive customer on the phone. Yes the tests 
are very thorough and conclusive. We go 
through the clients' work histories, their 
personal finances, whether they've ever 
stolen from their employer, and "custom 
questions" to fit your situation. Of 
course, people are a little nervous when 
they first come in. But the test is painless 
and 99 percent thank us when its 
through. We charge $60. 

Thirty five minutes later and I was 
getting pretty fucking disgusted with 
waiting around. Finally, I heard fum- 
blings at the door— one minute, two. 
The stupidest people in the world always 
turn out to be cops. This jerk couldn't 

even turn his own lock. I got up £md 
swoing the door open, startling this 
bimbo, hair dyed Lucille Ball red, reek- 
ing of perfume and dripping bright 
rayon scarfs and dross chains. Sort of 
Gypsy style but without the design 

Gee, this is a change, a client answer- 
ing the door. Are you my nine o'clock? 

I raised my wrist and looked at my 
watch. Yes. 

Behind her was a man — neat, con- 
tained, firm pot belly, cowboy boots. I 
could tell he had spent too much time in 
either the police or the military or both. 
After a quick look we knew we despised 
each other. 

I was given a form — name, date, 
address, position applying for, read the 
release and sign. The release says that 
under California law, zn employer can- 
not ask an employee to take a polygraph 
test as a condition either of hire or of 
continued employment. The form asked 
me to recognize this, sign, and take the 
test anyway. Ironic — in the name of 
employee honesty, Floorcraft was doing 
something illegal. I wrote an addendum 
restricting the firm from releasing the 
results of the test to anybody but Floor- 
craft — something not mentioned in the 

They all went to the back of the flat 
and jabbered. I waited five minutes after 
completing the form, just to build up my 
exasperation, marched in and an- 
nounced to the three I'm ready. I was led 
into a small room containing a desk emd 
two chairs. The redneck was to be my 
interrogator. He had a photocopied 
form. He explained that he was just 
visiting, that he had his own business 
someplace else, excuse him if he stumbles 
on some of the questions, but gee, the 
forms are pretty similar after all. 

The strategy of the interrogation is to 
extract detailed responses before hooking 
you up to the machine. After you're 
hooked up, the interrogator goes down 
the list of themes, asking if you had 
answered truthfully. The machine is not 
accurate, especially if you're out to beat 



Have You? 

it. It's a psychological torture device, a 
shortcut to wearing down your resis- 



Graphic by I.B. Nelson 

He began by asking me about my 
medical history. Am I seeing a doctor. 
Yes. What about. I get migraines. Are 
they treatable, do they ever stop you 
from going to work. I mused about 
claiming that I had anal warts and that 
was why I was trying to get out of office 
work — too much sitting. 

Have I ever lied. Of course. Please 
wait till I fmish a question before you 
answer. Have you ever lied in order to 
stay out of serious trouble. 

How much do you estimate that you 
drink on any given night. How much in 
a week? Do you now have, or have you 
ever had, a drinking problem. 

He started to question me about 
"street" drugs. I told him flat out that I 
refused to answer any questions about 
drugs. So we skipped a list of maybe 
thirty drugs. He would have wanted to 
know when I had tziken them, how much 
I had taken, if I was continuing to take 

If I had to pay off all my debts, 
what would that come to. Have I ever 
been past due on a payment. Have I ever 
declared bankruptcy. There were big 
spaces on his form for this one. Have I 
ever been convicted by a court. My 
driving record — any moving violations 
that were my fault. 

He had an elaborate introduction for 

We realize that there are no little angels 
running around out there. All we ask is 
that you answer truthfully. If you mess 
up, forget something, that's all right. Fll 
go back and help you through it. I told 

him that I have been working in offices 
and I have taken pens now and then you 
know how you stick them in your shirt 
pocket you take them home lay them on 
your desk and somehow you never have 
to buy pens. Oh yeah and I took a binder 
once to hold notes. Disappointed, he 
asked is that all? I think long and hard. 
No. What would you estimate the total 
value of all you've stolen. Uh, nineteen 
dollars and fifty three cents. Did I fill out 
my application accurately and complete- 
ly. Have I ever been fired or asked to 
resign from a job. I'm sure there would 
have been requests for details if I said 
yes. Was my resume truthful. 

That was it. He rzin through what he 
would ask me on the machine. One new 
question — would I lie if I thought I 
would get away with it. The rest were 
short summations of the previous lengthy 
interrogation. Do I have a mediced 
problem that would interfere with the 
performance of my job duties. Have I 
ever lied to stay out of serious trouble. 
Do I have a drinking problem. 

Next he cormected me to the machine: 
a chain with an expansion gauge airound 
my chest, zuiother around my abdomen, 
£in inflatable cuff pulse monitor (like they 
use to take your blood pressure) around 
my upper arm, and two jingly tingle 
sensors on my fingertips (my favorite 

He announced that he was going to 
ask me six questions, to adl of which I 
would answer no, and consequently lie to 
one. This would show him what it looked 
like when I lied. Is it Sunday? No. A 
longish pause while he waits for my body 
signs to get back to normal. Is it 

Graphic by I.B. Nelson 

Monday? No. Pause. Is it Tuesday? 
No. (The lie, you see). Pause. Is it... 

In PW #10 we ran a fact sheet on how 
to pass a lie detector test. I followed a 
strategy of relaxing when I lied, tensing 
up when I told the truth. Feet flat on 
the floor, we began. Would you. Have 
you. Did you. 

The interrogator was irritated with 
me. I fucked around with my pulse rate 
and breathing patterns, he couldn't ar- 
rive at what was normal for me. Also, I 
moved around too much. That is, I 
would move my head and sigh in 
exasperation at the invasive questions. 
He barked, stop moving. There is a very 
sensitive component in this machine that 
costs $700 to replace. 

Oh, you mean if I thrash around like 

it breaks something? 

I didn't thrash. 

I should have. But I didn't, partly 
because the guy was big and I felt 
physically intimidated. But partly I was 
having a hard time keeping my thoughts 
straight. Let's see, is it relax when you 
tell the truth and tense up when you lie. 
Or is it the other way around. I couldn't 
remember. So by now I was just tense all 
the time. I wanted it to end. 

Well, I can't tell what's going on, he 
said. We're going to have to go through 
the questions one more time. Remain 
still. When you move your head, it 
causes your neck to move and that causes 
your chest to move. If you have to take a 
deep breath, do it between questions. 
The test is about to begin. Would you. 
Have you. Did you. 

Finally, it was over. Remain still until 
I take the equipment off" you. I looked 
down at my right hemd. It was blue from 
being bound by the cuff. As I write this 
account two days later, I stop now and 
then to massage my arm, still sore from 
having the circulation constricted for 
almost half an hour. 

When I was unleashed, the man said, 
I czm't tell whether you were lying or 
telling the truth, but I can tell you didn't 
like taking the test. Why not. 

I told him I thought it was wrong, a 
poor substitute for paying employees 




decent wages, conducting informative 
interviews, checking references. "Let me 
ask you this, if you had a business from 
which employees were stealing millions 
of dollars, what would you do. 

That's a stupid question, I would 
never place myself in that position. 

He leans back. The two questions that 
Fm getting a slightly unusual response 
on are stealing from previous employers 
and being accurate on your resume. 
WeU, I said, I was honest about steading. 
Then I made a mistake. I said resumes 
are by nature amplified. But everything 
is correct and documentable (the truth). 

What do you mean, what was ampli- 

By this time I was unnerved. I should 
not have drawn him past where we had 
already been. I had been unnerved and 
was tripping over hurdles that thirty 
minutes earlier I would have easily 

avoided. I blocked: if Floorcraft has any 
specific questions, I would be glad to 
address them directly. 

The guy leaned forward. People like 
you make my job ten times harder. 

I leave feeling elated. I really frustrat- 
ed that guy. But I am sick for two days, 
fending off migraines and nausea. De- 
scribing the encounter later, my voice 
breaks and I know I could cry very 
easily. I am hyperaware of the presence 
of police. When I go to a store and notice 
that several of the clerks are new, I 
wonder, has there been a purge, did they 
all have to take polygraph tests? 

Don't take polygraph tests. Check to 
see if you are legally protected from the 
compulsion. If you're not, still don't take 
it. After one sordid hour, someone will 
have a file of information on you that 
you will regret. But if you are forced, 
really forced to take the test, practice 

responding to the questions above with a 
friend. Make your responses brief. Don't 
divulge any real information. I would 
not have told the guy about my mi- 
graines. No elaborate stories — they get 
too hard to keep straight. If you're going 
to lie, lie all the way. For instance, 
instead of admitting to ever having taken 
pens and a binder, I would have said I 
have never taken anything of substantial 
value that I can remember. The ques- 
tioner will ask for details, what you 
mean. But stick to your first response. 
Store those responses in a little cell in 
your head. Make them real, they are 
real, certainly more real than their 
hypocritical morality. 

A few days later, the nursery manager 
calls. Well, when can you come to work. 

That's ok. I've decided not to take the 

by Mark Leger 


1 — r~| — r~| — 1 1 1 JT 1 .1 1 — 1 — r~l — 1 — 1 — 1 — n — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — 1 — r 



s:i : -A 


^r___\ ^ 

- ^s T 


__j__^ _^^__,^_ 

: ^.^ :- ^sA 


It's 3:45 p.m. You've been xeroxing and collating 
materials to stuff into 800 envelopes since yesterday 
afternoon. It simply has to be out in today's mail. Only 
about half of the envelopes are full, and there's still the 
sealing and stamping to do in the next 75 minutes. 

Suddenly the boss bursts in and says "Hey, how did 
this happen?!?" He is pointing at the bottom margin 
on one of the inserts. The text ends less than a 
half-inch from the bottom! 

"I'm sorry, but you'll have to do these over. Get 
them printed out and xeroxed all over. If you'd done it 
right from the start you wouldn't have this problem!" 
He stomps out in a huff. 

Anxious? Nerves frayed? Is it your fault? Is it just 
that you don't fit in? That you can't cope with the 
responsibilities you must grow up and learn to handle? 

Take another example: You've been processing 
words on a VDT for the past six-and-a-half hours, 


with a half-hour lunch break for coffee tasting like hot 
water that's had a brown crayon soaking in it for a few 
hours. The stuffy windowless room in which "your" 
workstation resides has only the persistent hum of 
computers and the clackety-clack of fxjunding key- 
boards to remind you that you are not completely 
without sensation (the blurry vision and lower back- 
ache you've developed also prove you can feel.) 

One of the lawyers you work for rushes in with a pile 
of scribbled notes and a series of charts and says 
"Listen, this is really a rush job. . .gotta have it in an 
hour. It's for a really important case and we're meeting 
the judge in chambers in an hour and a half. I want 
you to drop everything and get this done! !" 

Of course, it doesn't occur to him that no one could 
possibly get something like that typed in less than three 
hours. He's screwed around so long, and missed his 
own deadlines so badly that no one and nothing can 
save him now. Nevertheless, it took you two months to 
land this job and you've seen a couple of people get the 
ax for stepping out of line, so you have to try to do it, 
or lose your job. 

Stomach hurt? Headaches? Nervous twitches ap- 
pearing in odd places? Regular nightmares about 
work? You've caught it! STRESS/ /The effects of stress 
can be quite far-reaching. Among the more fearsome 
results are heart disease, nervous system disorders, 
assorted inexplicable physical malfunctions, some- 
times even dramatic pain. 

Office workers, especially VDT operators, are 
statistically prone to much higher levels of stress than 
many other occupations. Some studies claim that 
VDT operators suffer higher levels of stress than air 
traffic controllers. The causes for these statistics are 
undoubtedly to be found in tlie work performed: 
highly detailed, but intrinsically useless data shuffling, 
under intense pressure for speed and accuracy. And 
the actual work environment, cut off from fresh air and 
sunshine, has plenty to do with it too. 

Lately more and more attention is being paid to this 
pervasive fact of modern life. Popular psychology has 
spawned a large, detailed analysis of stress and its 
effects. Amidst all the publicity on stress there 
flourishes a sub-industry of psychologists, employee 
relations specialists, time management consultants, 
etc. , all of whom proclaim their ability to help the 
stress-stricken individual learn to cope with the myriad 
causes of stress. 

Unfortunately the "humein service" provided by 
these apparent do-gooder professionals is one of the 
most cynical or self-deluded approaches to the pre- 

sent-day human malaise. The "stress-managers" are 
bound by their own economic needs to present stress as 
something curable when individuals buy the service 
they are selling, namely "stress therapy." It's not 
enough that work, survival, life itself are making you 
feel tense; there has to be someone there to make 
money from that too! 

When you "get" stress, have you caught something? 
Or is it more accurate to say that we are all caught by 
situations which force us to put up with ridiculous and 
humiliating demands, as often as not simply to fulfill 
the arbitrary whim of some jerk manager? 

Stress is not a result of individual failings. It is the 
result of an irrational and inhumane society. The 
solution to stress wQl not be found in any special 
seminar, or in any special meditation or exercise 
techniques (though it is true that some such techniques 
help some people temporarily cope with some results of 
stress). Stress is such a fundamental part of contem- 
porary society that it will take a deliberate restructuring 
of the social order to reduce it in any real sense. 

In the meantime, what can we do to alleviate the 
more overwhelming aspects of stress? On the job, 
nothing helps puncture the tension like resistance to 
the hurried "necessity" of imposed work demands. As 
long as one needs to hold a job, a certain amount of 
self-sacrifice and misery is unavoidable. But the source 
of stress can be confronted by keeping the pressing, yet 
trivial, demands of work in perspective. If a spirit of 
humorous disrespect and ridicule for the compelling 
time demands of the job prevails among the workforce, 
stress can be reduced to a level where it becomes more 
boredom than tension. Another source of temporary 
relief can be found in unofficial use of workplace 
resources (e.g., making personal phone calls, appro- 
priating postage and office supplies, etc.). 

Fighting the tyranny of work routines can be 
stress-inducing in itself. Going it alone can easily result 
in being fired. So, solidarity is vital in the fight for a 
less coercive work environment. 

Stress is a social disease; and it has a social cure: 
changing the way people treat each other by changing 
the society in which they interact. We "average folks" 
are the only ones who can solve the problem of stress. 
We can begin by rejecting the idea of stress as a 
product of individual failure, with individual solu- 
tions, and by continuing to pursue alternatives to the 
authoritarian institutions which impose stress as a way 
of life. 

^g[ — Nasty Secretaries Liberation Front 


i^nri'^ti i / i Hiiiti i m 





From the 

Fast Track 

Fear and Loathing 
in the Pharmaceutical 

^ shoiild have known something was 
wrong the first day I started working at 
The Firm, a large pharmaceutical con- 
glomerate headquartered in Chicago. 
Several peppy executive types mzirched 
up to me, shook my hand, and boomed 
"Welcome aboard!" Aboard what? I 
wondered. The Orient Express? A slow 
boat to China? A freight train to Hell? 

In time, the answer became painfully 
obvious. I was on board the yuppie fast 
track, in the belly of the beast. . . 

This is the story of how the combined 
cosmic forces of a midlife crisis and 
Processed World set one woman free. 
It's a fairly typical pattern: sex, drugs, 
and rock 'n' roll in the 60s, a prolonged 
hangover throughout much of the 70s, 
and an upwardly mobile career track in 
the 80s. 

I graduated from college in 1967 and 
immediately left the dusty Midwest for 
San Francisco with flowers in my hair. 
Then the Haight got kind of sad and the 
flowers wilted, so I took my act back 
home to become a writer. Twenty 
stupefying years later, I woke up to find 
myself the in-house writer for The Firm, 
a multinational concern specializing in 
cardiovascular drugs and large-scale 
larceny. Half of The Firm's profits went 
into developing bigger and better drugs. 
The other half, it was rumored, went up 
the president's nose. 

The Firm was run by crazed, power- 
mad martinets from the 50s and the 
equally crcized and driven yuppies who 
did their bidding, asskissing all the way 
to Senior Product Management (The 
Firm's ideal of Nirvana). Where were all 
the 60s people? Was I alone in the 

At The Firm, I was in chairge of 
stroking the house organ, a monumen- 
tally dreary little sales magazine called 
"HeartBeat." "HeartBeat" was supposed 


to get the sales force zdl hot and bothered 
so they'd run around the country hawk- 
ing our drugs and demolishing the 
competition by any means short of 
industrial sabotage. The Firm dangled 
glorious carrots in front of these willing 
donkeys, like mucho bonus bucks for 
the high achievers and trips to Las 
Vegas for the high rollers. Once a year, 
all heart patients who had been talking 
one of our products for ten consecutive 
years — and were still alive and ticking 
— were invited, courtesy of The Firm, 
to participate in a relay race held in 
Palm Springs. I could not help but 
wonder that the minds capable of creat- 
ing a relay race for coronary victims 
were capable of anything. Nevertheless, 
I put my scruples aside and duly 
reported all this shit in "HeartBeat." 

To add insult to injury, "HeartBeat" 
was presided over by a 250-lb., middle- 

aged monolith named Myma. Myma 
was a stone asskisser from way back 
and, as luck would have it, the office 
snitch. If I wrote anything remotely 
inventive or off-beat, Myma would 
red-pencil it all the way to Hell and 
back. She was the stalwart guardian of 
the mundane and the mediocre, and she 
defended her territories ferociously. 
Myrna was prim and prissy and a total 
pain the ass. Her favorite expression 
was "That isn't company policy." 

Ironically, despite all her drooling 
devotion to company policy, Myma was 
one of the biggest goof-offs at The Firm. 
Her quirk was chronic absenteeism, and 
she displayed a singular talent for in- 
venting some pretty bizarre reasons for 
missing work. Some of her favorite 
excuses revolved around her cat, Babs, 
such as "Babs threw up and I had to rush 
her to the Vet," or "Babs went into 

Graphic by Mari Calamari 


czirdiac arrest and I had to call an 
ambulzince to resuscitate her," or (her 
finest hour) "Babs buried my house keys 
in her kitty litter box and I couldn't 
leave home until I found them." 

When she ran out of Babs the Cat 
excuses, gargantuan disasters would 
befall the gargantuan wacko. The noto- 
rious Chicago winds would shatter her 
apartment windows... a band of mar- 
auding gypsies would mug her on the 
way to work... salmonella poisoning 
would seize her at lunch... the tenants in 
her next-door apartment would be mur- 
dered and Myma would have to wait for 
the police... a mysterious breed of killer 
cockroaches, never before seen above 
the Mason-Dixon line, would invade 
her apartment necessitating a three-day 
extermination period which Myma 
would have to supervise. 

Yes indeed, Myma was one sick lady. 
She had a little pig face and a tight, 
compressed, litde mouth and (no doubt 
about it) a tight, compressed little 
asshole. She probably hadn't had a good 
shit or a good lay in years. So the venom 
festered within, ballooning her into a 
bilious blob lashing out at life. 

I couldn't stand to be in the same 
room with her, much less engage in 
conversation, so soon I stopped writing 
anything that would summon the 
dreaded red pencil and subsequent "edi- 
torial conference" with Myma. After 
five zmgst-filled years, I got to the point 
where I could churn out articles uncon- 
scious at my desk (which I frequently 

Lest you seriously question my sanity 
for remaining in this hellhole for five 
yeairs, let me assure you it was not all 
Sturm und drang. Consider the finer 
point of life at The Firm: I made a 
righteous amount of money; I did not 
have to work very hard (a hippie ideal); 
£ind I had some real nice perks like 
traveling around the country to sales 
meetings. I thought I had made my 
peace with The Firm. I figured, "Okay, 
this is it. I'll roll with it." 

But then I turned 40 and it wasn't 
it— not by a long shot. I began to do 
some serious soul-searching. The first 

sign 1 nad of impending insurrection 
was that I abiindoned my fast-track 
colleagues and began hanging out with 
the office temps. I, who had formerly 
thought the The Firm was peopled 
exclusively with yuppies, suddenly 
found where my fellow 60s compatriots 
were. They were the office temps and 
they looked like they were having a real 
good time. One particularly insidious 
temp named Wolfman Jack introduced 
me to Processed World. And that, my 
friends, was the start of my undoing and 
eventual salvation. 

Things got curiouser and curiouser: I 
was like a creature possessed. I discard- 
ed my business suits for increasingly 
inappropriate office attire. I threw away 
my attache case. I put up a Jimi 
Hendrix poster in my office. I defiandy 
clamped on headphones and blasted the 
Grateful Dead whenever Myrna wad- 
dled into my office waving her dreaded 
red pencil. 

Pretty soon I attracted a secret coven 
of hippies. Strange and wondrous be- 
ings, whom I had previously dismissed 
as straight, suddenly metamorphosized 
in my office and confessed they were at 
Woodstock, including three staff mem- 
bers of "HeartBeat" to my eternal de- 
light. One of The Firm's doctors admit- 
ted to working at the Haight Ashbury 
Free Clinic. There were now 12 of tif at 
The Firm (like the Apostles, I suppose), 
and we careened gleefully into the 
corporate structure. 

Strange graffiti, such as "Fuck The 
Firm" and "Make Love Not Drugs," 
began to appear on the hallowed halls of 
The Firm. It puzzled everyone, since no- 
one had ever dared deface company 
property before. (The graffiti were ulti- 
mately blamed on the outside messenger 
force.) In a rare gesture of Yuletide 
good will, The Firm erected a Christmas 
tree in the lobby, decorated with bright 
red birds instead of ornaments. One by 
one, the birds mysteriously disappeared 
and turned up in the most astonishing 
places — belly-up in urinals in the exec- 
utive washroom... perched on the statue 
of The Firm's founder... peeking out 
ominously from behind the curtains at 

sales conferences. Every week. The 
Firm's xerox machines inexplicably 
went into overload because they were 
churning out hundreds of particularly 
flagrant Processed World cartoons for 
corporate distribution. 

Production at "HeartBeat" ground to 
a halt, as we were all way too busy on eui 
underground publication called "Heart- 
Burn." I was especially pleased with the 
logo I had created— "HeartBum 
...pharmaceuticals are not just our 
business, they're our way of life." Never 
before in the history of that wretched 
little rag had so much work been done so 
cheerfully and so quickly by so few. 
There was joy in the air! 

In no time at all I was getting called 
into the VPs office and questioned 
about my "attitude problem." But I 
didn't have an "attitude problem" any 
longer. For the first time in years, I was 
amazingly clear about what I wanted in 
life and where I was going — and it sure 
as shit wasn't along the fucking yuppie 
fast track with a bunch of pharmaceuti- 
cal industry fascists. No, a totally differ- 
ent set of pharmaceuticals had helped to 
shape me in my formative years and 
they didn't fail me now. I knew what I 
had to do. I marched in the VPs office 
and quit. 

The first thing I did to celebrate my 
freedom was buy a plane ticket to San 
Francisco. When I came here this past 
June, I discovered that it was the 20th 
anniversary celebration of the Summer 
of Love. Kismet! It took 20 years for me 
to come full circle — in classically perfect 
symmetry. In 1967, I came to San 
Francisco with no job and in 1987 I 
returned — again with no job. The circle 
had closed and I was free. 

I now plan to become a freelance 
writer. It's 20 yeairs later, but I'm going 
to do it right this time, no more getting 
side-tracked by the fast track. I've even 
got my commemorative 1967/1987 
Haight-Ashbury tie-dyed T-shirt as a 
lucky talisman. 

Thank you Processed World, derail- 
ment is heavenly. 

t^^ by Madame Curie 

B^rSeRkEILy Comix 

by Ac« Backwords Cmc 

WHftT ARE. wO \ ('first ivn 



cohN^o^J WITH (f]£, movf to -rne. 

DRuDSfRV X'LL Ru/0 Offt^i^*^ 
MV 19-MEAR. OLD S£CR£rftf:V.' 
DflV I G£T 

GEt2 .' I J05T y Gosh Bcrry/ 

I'm GONW DO ? / Pi/)/V lOilR. 

Future // j 




tan sat in the wait- 
ing room, nervously 
fingering his black 
eye patch. He lifted 
it for a moment, 
exposing the empty socket 
to air, and placed an I Love 
Billy button through the 
patch. He hopped over to 
the mirror next to the recep- 
tionist's window, and checked 
the effect. Its slighdy crooked 
angle, he decided, gave it 
that extra individuality. 

The receptionist, at his 
desk, smiled at him. 
"That's real nice, Stan." 
"Thanks, Harry." 

"How is Billy, haven't seen him in 
many moons," Harry said, watching his 

'And you won't, either. I keep him far 
away from this hellhole." 

'I hear you, Stan. How old is he by 
now? Sixteen?" 

'Fourteen. Helluva good boy. Like his 
old man," he laughed. 'Shit," he said 
suddenly, looking down at his missing 
left foot. 'Goddamn." 

'What's the matter?" Harry said, not 
looking up. 

'Been two years, damn thing still hurts 
like hell sometimes." 

'Oh. Phantom pains." 

"Phantom my ass. It's real pain, 
Harry, real pain." Stan stared in wonder 
at the floor, where his foot should've 
been. 'Now why do you suppose it does 
that, anyway?" 

'My theory," Harry answered, 'is that 
it's a kind of echo of your real limb." 

'Echo, huh," Stan pondered. 'My 
theory is that damn doctor's got my foot 
somewhere alive, sitting in a bottle of 

chemicals, and he's sticking pins in it." 

'For one thing, Stan," Harry began, a 
bit perturbed, 'all the 'tates we get — 
limbs and organs — are taken to the 
bank — every day. Dr. Pound doesn't keep 
any, for goodness' sake. He's much too 
busy to be dabbling in voodoo." 

"Shit," Stan said aimlessly. He hopped 
back to his seat. 

"And use your crutches," Harry scold- 

At that moment, a woman entered the 
door and walked up to the receptionist's 

"Harry," she said. 

*Oh, hello, Louise, on time for once." 

"Present me a trophy," she said, sitting 
down across from Stan. 

"Figures the day you're on time," 
Harry said, "is the day the doctor's 

"Figures," she said, smiling at Stan. 

He smiled back. She was, he estimat- 
ed, in her mid-thirties, wearing blue 
jeans and a button down white shirt. 


"Hi," she said, eyeing him. He was 
pushing fifty, she decided, with a finely 
wrinkled face. He was pale skinned from 
lack of sun. Probably, she decided, from 
working inside all day. 

They looked at each other for a 
moment, then both reached for maga- 
zines. Stan noticed her left aTm was 
missing up to the elbow. With her right 
hand she flipped through the lap-held 
magazine. He saw that her hand had all 
but the last digit, and sighed. He looked 
at his own hands. Both were down to a 
forefinger and a thumb on each hand. 

He could not afford to lose any more 

Again, the phantom pain throbbed his 
invisible foot. He bent down to rub it, 
finding nothing there. Embarassed, he 
looked up at Louise. 

"Phantom, hum? I know all about 
that, believe you me. My armll just bum 
with pain sometime," Louise offered. 

*^eah. How long's your arm been 

She thought for a moment. "Must be 
four years now, huh," she gave a short 
quick laugh, "seems like yesterday." 

"Not something you get used to," Stzm 
said, staring off. 

"Something you have to get used to," 
she replied, watching him. 

He recalled the anaputation of his 
foot — not so much the physical aspect, 
since powerful anaesthetics were em- 
ployed—but the emotional side, the loss 
and the grief, like a friend youll never 
see again. Of course, there was always 
the possibility of financial change, of a 
turn for the better, of a grafting of a new 
left foot to replace the old one. 

Chauices were slim. He knew that. 
AM General wasn't about to give a 52 
year old man a raise, let alone a 
promotion. His wife's real estate work 
wasn't netting much. And the children 
— Becky and Jan had their lives, their 
families, and their own frustrations. 

Both girls had spent digits and eau-s on 
just establishing a home. 

And Billy, litde Billy. "Course four- 
teen isn't little," Stan thought, "but he's 
the baby of the family, the boy I always 
wanted, the one we — especially Dana — 
took the risk having." Pride and joy, that 
boy wortli zmy expenditure. 

But that's how it is these days, he 
thought, it's not anything specific you 
spend a limb on, not like the old days, 
when a deal was clean, you bought a car 
with a hand, you bought a house with an 
arm. Not ainymore, he mused, you just 
lop something off for the dzmrm bills, give 
up an eye or a damned kidney to make 
ends meet, got nothing to show for it but 
your loss. 

"Hey," Louise ccdled softly, "Hey, 

"Wh-what," he said, startled. 

"You're purple, don't forget to 
breathe," she smiled. 

"Oh," he said, embarrassed. "I, uh, got 
a lot on my mind." 

"Ill say." 

"Who's Billy?" 

Stan was surprised, then remembered 
his eye patch button. "My boy. Four- 

"Fve got a twelve year old and 2in eight 
year old," she announced proudly. 

"Hmmm," he said, "You're about my 
oldest daughter's age. She's 3L" 

"I'm 33. And my name's Louise." 

"Stan Drucker." 

They smiled at each other. 

"So, Stan, what're you in for today?" 

"Uh, nothing major, more like a 
checkup, you know. You?" 

She gestured toward the remaining 
half of her left arm. 

"No," Stan said, sympathetic. 

"Not doing much of anything anyway. 
Besides, health insurance for the three of 
us — my husband's been gone awhile 
now — is pretty vital. Plus my car needs 
new rings. But you know how things 

FLESH MASTERS by Matthew Finch 

"Yeah," Stan said flady. 

"And I checked into it. It's not that 
much more for grafting on a whole arm, 
than it is for a half" 

"It's the hand that runs you so damn 
much," Stan pointed out. 

"Right, so I figure it's worth the risk." 

He eyed her. "WTiere's your husbamd?" 

"Florida. He's sending child support, 
but in today's world, it's peanuts." 

"Peanuts," he echoed. 

"Almost spent an eye one time," she 
said. "Couldn't bring myself to do it — no 
offense. Spent the hand instead." 

He held up his sparsely fingered 
hands. "Need these for work." He mimed 
the screwing of bolts with his forefmgers 
and thumbs. "Had to go for the eye." He 
recalled the accident a few years back, 
when Billy had been struck by the car. 

"Where do you work?" Louise asked. 

"AM General." 

"You do? You know Otto Kinser?" 

"Otto? You bet. But he's carburetor 
and I'm exhaust system. We don't cross 
paths much." 

"Otto's such a character," she beamed. 
"He's my sister-in-law's dad." 

Suddenly a patient exited the doctor's 
office, entering the waiting room. He 
was in his early twenties, a tall, thin, 
dark haired man with a bandage 
wrapped around his head. He walked up 
to the window where Harry took down 
some information. He steadied himself 
with a hand on the wall. 

"Say, Buddy," Stan said, "WTiy don't 
you have a seat?" 

"Uh, yeah," he said, somewhat daized. 
He found a seat beside Louise and sat 

Stan eyed him. He was well dressed, 
with a nice watch and a couple of rings. 
Fingers intact. They looked like the 
original fingers, though you could never 
tell for sure, Stan mused. 

"Say, Buddy," Stan began, "first 


"How'd you know?" 

"Just a guess. You all right?" 

"I think so," he said. 

"What's your name?" Louise asked. 
"I'm Louise." 



A quick look told Rick that his new 
friends were well versed in amputation. 

"Ear?" Louise asked the obvious. 

"Yezih," Rick replied. 

"Hope you spent it wisely," Stan said. 

"Oh yeah," Rick said, perking up. "I 
sure hope so. Dirt bike." 

"What?" Stan said, his mouth open. 

"Dirt bike. A 550. Mountain wheels, 
bumble bee black and yellow—" 

"You mean you spent an ear on a 

"Yeah," Rick said, standing up. "You 
got a problem with that?" 

"Yeah, I do," Stan said, standing up 

"Well it's none of your danm business, 
mister," he said, walking to Harry's 

"A dirt bike," Stan said, "rm trying to 
feed my family and you're buying a 
stupid toy." 

"Stan," Louise cautioned. 

Rii... ookhis receipt from Harry. 

"You better be careful, old man," he 
said, his lip quivering, "someoneTl shut 
you up." A moment later. Rick was 

"Goddanm," Stan said. "Stupid kid." 

"All the same, Stan," Louise said, "It 
isn't any of your business." 

Harry learned out the window. "It is, in 
fact. Dr. Pound's business, who employs 
me, Stan, so I would appreciate it if you 
quit alienating the customers." 

"That's the point, Harry, we used to be 
patients, now we're customers," Stan 

"Oh Jesus, Stan, what's the differ- 
ence," Harry said, disgusted. "Now calm 
down. Dr. Pound will be ready to see 
you in a moment." He disappeared 
through his window. 

Louise moved over to sit beside Stan. 
"You okay? You turn purple pretty 

"But the fool— " 

"You're not gonna do that wife aind 

kids of yours any good having a heart 
attack, Stan." 

He looked at her. "You're a good kid," 
he said. 

She smiled. 

Through the door walked a man, who 
stood in the waiting room, bewildered. 

"Am I in the right place?" he asked, 
looking £u-ound. 

He had a total of five arms: two extra 
in front and one that had been grafted 
onto his coccyx to simulate a tail. He 
stood steadily on a tripod of three thick 
legs. Four ears ringed his head. Two 
extra thumbs sat adjacent to the last 
digit. He turned to look at Stan and 
Louise with his three eyes, the third one 
in the middle of his forehead. 

*HeUo," he said, smiling his double 
row of teeth. "Is this the grafting clinic?" 

Before Stan knew it he was standing 
direcdy beside the man. He stiffened, 
seeing the man turn purple. 

"I see," he said slowly, "I am in the 
wrong place." 

"Is that my eye?" Stan asked, pointing 
to the one in his forehead. 

"I beg your pardon?" the man said. 

"I recognize that eye." 

"Stan, calm down — " Louise began. 

"Excuse me," he said, "I believe it's the 
next door." He turned but Stan grabbed 
his back arm. "Mister, I don't believe 
you want this kind of trouble." 

Harry leaned out the window. "Stan." 

"You're not going anywhere," Stan 
told the mjin. 

"Stan, let the man go," Harry said. 

"Ck) what? Get another £irm, another 
ear, how many does it take til it's 

"How much do you need?" 

"Look, mister," the well limbed man 

"Shut up, Frankenstein — " 

"Frankenstein?" he bellowed. 

"You heard me — " 

"You Limbecile," he yelled. "I've never 
been so insulted." 

"You're looking at me through my own 
damn eye and you're insulted?" 

"Stan, you don't know that's your eye," 
Louise said. 

Stan turned to look at her. 

"Come on, Stan," Heirry said, "let the 
man be. Or Fm calling the police." 

Stan turned to face the man. "Tell you 
what, Frank, why don't you wait right 
here? Huh? So you can get your parts 
fresh off the line, eh Frankie? There's an 
ear in there fresh as a dmsy, and stick 
around, youll have another eye to stick 
in your fat face—" 

"An eye, Stan?" Louise broke in. 

Stan turned to look at her. 

"But, Stan, you said — how will you 
work with no eyes." 

He raised his forefingers and thumbs 
into the air and screwed imaginary bolts. 

"Tell you what," he said, turning to 
face the man. "Let's just perform the 
operation right now. Why don't you just 
reach in and grab it with your fingers." 

"You're nuts," the man said. "It's not 
my fault you're a limbecile — you can't 
blame me." He started to walk to the 
door but Stan pulled him back. 

"Just take it out. Take it out of my 
head, Frank, use your fingers, come 
on — " 

The man shoved Stan away, then took a 
step. Stan was on him the next moment, 
but was quickly thrown to the side. 

"Don't mess with me!" he yelled. 

Stan hopped over to the man and 
swung, landing a blow on one of his ears. 
The man yelled out and swung two 
arms, sending Stan flying into one of the 

"Stop it!" Louise said, rushing over to 

There were sirens approaching. 

"Stupid limbecile," the man muttered. 

Stan got up, taking his crutches in 
hand. He faced the man. The sirens 
grew loud, stopping just outside. Stan 
turned and headed toward the doctor's 
rooms. Harry and Louise called out after 
him. He ducked into the first room he 
came to. He went to the window and 
opened it. As he started to climb out, he 
noticed something on a nearby table. 

A box. He knew by sight that it was 
for carrying smaller limbs and organs. 
He quickly moved to it, and saw numer- 
ous packages. He didn't hesitate. He 
closed the box and headed out the 
window. Hopping furiously, one hand 
holding a crutch, the other holding the 
box, he sped down the sidewalk, onlook- 
ers watching in horror. 

He heard someone yeU, "Stop." He 
turned to see the police, fully limbed, 
racing toward him. 

The box flew from his hand, its 
contents spilling on the sidewalk. He 
slipped and fell and layed there, breath- 
ing hard, among the eyes and the ears, 
the fingers and the tongues, a crowd 
gathering around him. 

t^^ by Jim Poyser 



Frustration, despair, and shallow, 
escapist dreams, such is the stuff of the 
stories that fJl our fiction rejections 
folder at PIV. Here we meet disposable 
people made smaller than life by the 
pettiness of their surroundings; people 
in fiberglass cages armored with fanta- 
sies of violence; people on assembly 
lines relating to others as harmful 
objects. Scratch a working stiff, their 
authors seem to argue, and you'll find 
thirst for revenge. It is as if the very 
condition of work precluded any finer 
passion than rage. Maybe imagination 
atrophies under fluorescent lights. 

The most disturbing aspect of these 
stories, however, is not the misery they 
portray, but the fact that the characters 
are often too diminished in their hu- 
manity to be of any interest to the 
reader. Sometimes it feels that the 
authors themselves are the trapped per- 
sonas they describe, but, being trapped, 
they lack the larger vision or spiritual 
depth their stories require. Identifying 
with characters is not the same as 
understanding them or showing com- 
passion for their situation. On the other 
hand, one must search long and hard 
among contemporary writers to find 
one who attempts a sympathetic — but 
unsentimental — portrait of the work- 
ing person. 

The K-Mart/Condo ambience of a 
Raymond Carver or Frederick Bar- 
thelme is too ironic and sharp-edged for 
our purposes. Their Everyman stum- 
bling along in supermarket parking lots 
loaded down with frozen dinners and 
six-packs of beer is a literary construc- 
tion of what people might be like if they 
tried to be what they consumed or saw 
on television. The other side of the 
genre is Anne Beattie, with her decided- 
ly unironic representations of the heart- 
aches of the yuppie woman. 

In sharp contrast to the irony and 
sentiment of Carver, Beattie and com- 
pany stands W.D. Wetherell, who 
proves it is possible to write well and 
compassionately about people whose 
stories rarely reach us. I am speaking of 
blue-collar workers stranded in the 
post-industrial age. Max Apple proba- 
bly had this interest in the proletariat in 
mind when he compared Wetherell, the 
author of THE MAN WHO LOVED 

LEVITTOWN, to Sherwood Ander- 
son, whose WINESBERG, OHIO ap- 
peared in the 1930s. Stylistically, he is 
more like John Updike than Anderson, 
but Updike's world is upwardly mobile 
and increasingly anachronistic. 

The saying goes that you cannot 
judge a person until you have walked a 
mile in his shoes. In story after story, 
Wetherell eases you into his protago- 
nists' shoes and then leaves you limping, 
but with respect for their owner's per- 
son. In the title story, the shoes belong 
to Tommy DiMaria, World War II vet, 
retired Grumman aircraft worker, who 
has lived in Long Island's Levittown for 
32 years and doesn't want to move even 
though his old neighbors have long 
since retired to Florida, his wife is dead, 
and his children have grown up. As an old, 
working-class man occupying prime 
real estate he is an affront to the com- 
munity of younger middle-class families. 

The story is told in the first person 
with a lot of humor. He describes his 
first visit to Long Island right after the 
war, "Potato fields. Nothing but. 
French-fried heaven, not another car in 
sight. I stop at a diner for coffee. 
Farmers inside look me over like Fm the 
tax man come to collect. Bitter. Talking 
about how they were being run off their 
places by these new housing develop- 
ments you saw advertised in the paper, 
which made me mad because here I am 
a young guy just trying to get started." 

Graphic by Mark Beebe 



The historical touch is eerie. Driving 
through Long Island now, it's impossible 
to imagine its wall-to-wall suburban 
communities ever having been farms. 
Likewise, in one deft line, Wetherell 
invokes the economic uncertainty of the 
immediate post-war period. When he 
approaches Levittown, the mass-pro- 
duced houses are just being built, or 
better said, assembled. "Dovm the street 
is a quonset hut with a long line of men 
waiting out front, half of them still in 
uniform. Waiting for jobs I figure, like 
in the Depression ... here we go again." 
Then it finally hits him: "VVhat these 
men are lined up for isn't work, it's 
homes!" Homes that cost $7,000; only 
$100 down if you were a vet. Still 
DiMaria had to work at two jobs and 
his wife had to wait tables for them to 
keep up with the mortgage payments. 

DiMaria suffers from 50's nostalgia 
with a vengeance. Those were the years 
when he and his working class buddies 
helped each other raise families and put 
additions on to their houses. "There 
wasn't anything we wouldn't do for each 
other. Babysit, drive someone some- 
where, maybe help out with a mortgage 
payment someone couldn't meet." But 
now it's the 80's, the $7,000 house is 
worth $55,000, and all the "pioneers" 
have long since sold out to middle- 
management types and retired to Flori- 
da. Only DiMaria remains. His neigh- 
bors keep pressuring him to move. 
They test his resolve to stay with 
screams and threats. His garbage is 
spilled, his mail stolen, they even 
arrange to have his house reassessed. 
Finally one neighbor purposely runs 
over his dog. 

And still we are walking in his shoes. 
When he discovers who killed his dog, 
he plots his revenge. "I didn't do it right 
away. We had a tradition in the old 
days. You had a score to settle, you 
took your time. I waited for the first 
stormy night, went over there with two 
buckets of the cheapest red paint money 
could buy." 

Then all of a sudden the shoes start 
hurting; our hero, it turns out, has 
painted a giant swastika on his Jewish 
neighbor's house. "There were pictures 
of it in the paper, editorials saying 
Levittown has gone to hell which was 



true but for the wrong reasons." 

Thirty years ago, the Northeast was 
called the Industrial Northeast and 
Americans were proud that workers 
could lead middle-class lives. At the 
time, it was not realized that this was 
merely a fluke in economic history. The 
story that follows "The Mzm Who 
Loved Levittown", relates a day in the 
life of a working man who might well be 
a Vietnam veteran. 

"They had lasagna for Thanksgiving 
dinner that year. The meatless kind. 
From a can." So begins If a Woodchuck 
Could Chuck Woodchuck. Talk about 
misery: what could compare to the 
poverty of an unemployed worker's 
family in Maine? Mike's anger at his 
failure to feed his family or heat his 
house poisons the air like industrial 
pollution. He does not have to be in the 
house for his wife, or father, or 7-yecir- 
old son to feel it, £ind there's no 
appeasing it. When his father, Mike 

Senior, a part-time janitor in Boston, 
visits for the holiday, he notices the 
house is being heated by a wood stove. 
This is an economy measure, since 
Mike can no longer afford to pay for oil 
for the furnace. Mike Senior tells him 
about his own grandfather's wood 
stove. "Mike sat on the couch nursing a 
beer. His face had hardened since the 
last time MLke Senior had seen him. 
There was something reproachful about 
his prematurely gray hair, his tired 
eyes. "You never showed me. Pop. You 
never taught me about wood stoves 
when I was small." 

"It took Mike Senior off guard. The 
frowning. The green work pants he 
hadn't bothered to change out of. He 
wished Shawn would come back from 
wherever he was hiding. 'Well, no. Of 
course, because we didn't have one. We 
had a furnace.'" 

Then Mike asks, "Was that the same 
grandfather whose brother starved to 

death on the way out West?" 

This is a frightening and frightened 
America, an America without heat or 
turkey on Thanksgiving, an America 
that squandered the good will of the 
Indians. This is an America without 
dreams — go West and starve to death. 
"Things will get better," Mike Senior 
whispers to his grandson. "I promise," 
the grandfather says, and die child fi- 
nally found the word he was groping for 
all afternoon. "Liar!" 

Wetherell may have already secured 
a place in Americzin literary history as 
one of the first chroniclers of the 
depression of the 1980's. Mezmwhile, 
here at Processed World, I am waiting for 
the still unwritten (or unpublished) 
story that perfecdy captures the horror. 
and the humanity of the people behind 
the beige cubicle walls. 

by Ana Logue 

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